On a hot summer day in the mid 1950s Glenn Simpson and his wife were enjoying an outing on Lake Lure. That day Simpson and his wife witnessed a drowning, and the helplessness of their community to respond. Simpson was amazed with what he saw the Gaston Lifesaving Crew accomplish that day in recovering the subject. At this point in time, they were the closest rescue squad to WNC.
Simpson lobbied his VFW Post to start a volunteer rescue squad. VFW Post 5206 began a 25 member squad, initially made up of only VFW members. Chief Edney of the Hendersonville Fire Department donated the first vehicles. They included one van, a John boat, and a station wagon to transport personnel. Ed Hunnicutt, a local photographer, became the first Captain.
Within two years the Squad had changed its name from Hendersonville VFW Rescue Squad to the Hendersonville Rescue Squad and started allowing non-military veterans to join the ranks. The basic requirement to be a member was a certificate in American Red Cross Advanced First Aid. Neal Grissom was charged with instructing the courses. To reach the Squad, one would call Oxford 3-4211 and a police dispatcher would telephone a few select members who then alerted the rest of the Squad. During this period the Squad was charged with Civil Defense in Henderson County. They would amaze dignitaries and civic groups with their state-of-the-art, “10-Ton Port-A-Power” hydraulic jack; the majority of the Squad’s rescue equipment was manufactured by the members themselves. The Rescue Squad was also instrumental in creating the Western North Carolina Rescue Association, as one of four original charter members.
Today 60 volunteers and 40 paid staff make up the Henderson County Rescue Squad. As a team the Squad is NC State certified in High Angle, Swift Water, Surface Water, SCUBA, Vehicle and Machinery, Confined Space, Trench, Wilderness, and Mountain Rescue. The Squad provides medical service at an EMT-Intermediate level with over 70 EMT’s.
Although the Squad has evolved enormously in the past 60 years, the mission for every man or woman who has worn the uniform is the same: “Dedicated to the Service of Henderson County.”