The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Unsung Heroes - The Rescue Squads

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: March, 1983

It was a beautiful day in June. A young couple from Winston-Salem were enjoying a pleasant afternoon in the mountains. They had hiked to a waterfall in an extremely remote area. The waterfall was a breathtaking 200 feet high.

The man had climbed down part of the way and his fiancée was wading in the shallow pool at the top. He heard her scream and looked up in time to see her falling. At every ledge she would hit and fall again. She had waded too close to the edge and her foot had slipped on the mossy rocks. Her companion hiked out and called the Vesta Rescue Squad for help.

It took many squad members three hours of tying ropes to trees and their bodies and pulling a “stokes basket” inches at a time, up the rocky, overgrown terrain. Two members were at each side of the basket to steady it as their fellow workers pulled from above and others held the ropes steady behind them. She was lucky to have sustained as few injuries as she did. Even at that, she had a broken leg that required immediate surgery. Five hours after the fall she was on her way to surgery at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.

The rescue squad had worked as a precision team.

One stormy summer night a search was called. A boy scout was missing from his troop who were camping near the Pinnacles of Dan in the Dan River Gorge. Again the rescue squad was called. Members put on raincoats to protect themselves, as best they could, from the driving rain. They searched all night over a large, heavily wooded, mountainous area. The boy was found at dawn, thankfully he was safe and sound.

A car has wrecked, the rescue squad is called. They arrive at the scene to find the car turned on its side with the drivers arm pinned beneath it. The squad members must work fast to steady the car so it won’t fall over and crush the driver. They must then jack it up in order to free him. Moments after he is free, the car falls.

One afternoon the Floyd County Rescue pagers sounded their alert for members to respond to Indian Valley. A man in his sixties was having breathing difficulties, a possible heart attack.

When the squad members got there, he was unconscious. Before they could even get him to the ambulance, he had gone into respiratory arrest. Mouth to mouth resuscitation was started immediately by one squad member as another returned to the ambulance for the “Ambu-bag,” a hand respirator. They used this to get him to the ambulance. Once in the ambulance, they turned the oxygen tanks to the demand valve, which gives a burst of oxygen at regular intervals and were able to start him breathing again on the way to the hospital.

These are but a few examples of our area rescue squads at work. They have been called to wrecks, fires, searches, to transport heart attack victims and even to aid in rescuing flood victims. Where there is a need they go unquestionably.

In gathering information for this article, I spoke to Fort Wirt, who is in charge of the Floyd Rescue Squad; Roy Ferguson, President of the Patrick County Fire and Rescue Association; Felix Fraraccio, Administrator of Patrick County’s Reynolds Memorial Hospital; and several individual rescue squad members.

It is a state regulation that all rescue squad members be a state certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and hold a certificate from the Red Cross or Heart Association in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). All squad members must keep their certification current and periodically take refresher courses. The EMT must be renewed every three years and CPR every six months.

R.J. REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL [Stuart, VA]   The Emergency Room facilities at Reynolds Memorial Hospital are located at the side entrance and well marked signs leading to it are on Highway 58. Felix Fraraccio, the hospital administrator, said the Emergency Room facilities are open 24 hours a day with local doctors on call during the day and other physicians are under contract for night and weekend service from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Mr. Fraraccio said it would be helpful if you are coming to the emergency room to call ahead to alert them. In the case of transportation, a registered nurse is available to care for the patient en route.

In addition, in Patrick County, both funeral homes have ambulances that are available for transportation.

Please support these rescue squads with your appreciation and financial aid. They aren’t in it for fun and profit. There isn’t any profit and it certainly isn’t fun to leave a warm bed at two o’clock in the morning to respond to a car wreck. These people are doing this because they care. They are dedicated to the pursuit of saving lives, maybe yours, maybe mine.


Roy Ferguson stressed the amount of hours the squad members work for their communities. The rescue squads in both counties are completely volunteer associations, putting not only time but a fair share of their own money into providing this service for their communities. They are constantly updating their equipment and starting new rescue squads in neighborhoods that are too far away from existing squads.

In Patrick County, there are four rescue squads operating collectively under the Patrick County Fire and Rescue Association. Every squad is formed independently by citizens who live in the neighborhood. In Patrick County, all rescue squads, when responding to a call, transport the patients to Reynolds Memorial Hospital on Highway 58, east of Stuart, unless the call is not of an extreme nature and the patient requests to be transported to a different hospital.

When asked for advice to give to people not familiar with this area, Roy Ferguson said, “There are usually several missing person searches a year in Patrick County. Please call us before it gets late in the day if a search is needed. Searches are much harder if working under the restrictions of darkness.”


In Floyd County, each squad is a sub-station of the main base. At present, there is the main base or Station No.1, on Highway 221, one mile north of Floyd and Station No.2, on State road 610, in the Locust Grove/Huffville area. Station No.3, is being planned and hopefully will be in operation by late spring [1983] in Indian Valley.

All Floyd Rescue units are dispatched by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department. Each member has a paging alert unit.

The Floyd Rescue Squad has, at present, two basic life support ambulances and two advanced life support ambulances. In addition to the required EMT certification, three members are shock-trauma technicians. They are equipped and certified to transmit EKG and other vital information en route to the hospital to save precious time that might make a life or death difference.