In the late 60’s Wilson Rawlings found a problem. EMS kept getting called for vehicle accidents with entrapped people. At the time, tow truck drivers used winches to pull vehicles apart to free occupants. No emergency agency in southeast Kentucky had extrication tools or training to handle these types of emergencies. London City Fire Department handled lost persons and drownings, but not extrication. Seeing the need for improvement, Wilson asked a couple of his friends from the fire department (Jerry Cottongim and Lawrence “Blackfire” McClain) to volunteer their time with him to start a rescue squad.
When they established the Rescue squad in 1969 they didn’t have a single piece of equipment. The first equipment they acquired was a railroad jack, come along (hand-operated winch), and a pry bar. At the time, the Laurel County Fiscal Court was not invested in the squad, so on weekends the rescue members would stand on street corners asking for money from the community to buy equipment. Kerns Bakery then donated a used box truck to be used as the first rescue vehicle. The first real rescue tool they acquired was a K-12 (rotary)saw. In 1975 they purchased the first new rescue vehicle. It was designed after Rescue 51 from the popular Emergency! tv show. The K-12 saw produces a lot of sparks, so in 1976 the Laurel County Fiscal Court invested in the Squad and provided $10,000 for a set of rescue Jaws.
Now having a vehicle and tools, they needed a place to be kept. The Squad used any building they could get their hands on until the Laurel County Fire Department gave them a bay in their building to work out of. They continued to invest in training and equipment as the needs of the community developed. Interstate 75 was completed in Kentucky in 1970, and Laurel Lake was constructed from 1964 to 1974. The Rescue Squad would be there from the beginning.
Over the following decades, they answered thousands of calls. One of the scariest calls Wilson remembers the squad responding to was in 1989. In Jackson County, a student took 11 hostages. Wilson was transporting nurses and medical supplies to the incident. The incident ended peacefully, but the threat was real and the squad was ready. As they continued to improve with technical responses, the squad still stayed focused on the number one reason for calls; vehicle extrication. Places like what locals called Dive Bomber Hill on US 25 North were hotspots. “Any time it rained we had a wreck on Dive Bomber Hill,” recalls Wilson.
London-Laurel Rescue Squad has always been proud to be a part of our community. From three people with hand tools in a box truck to an agency that responds not only to Laurel County, but also all over Kentucky. Now with technical level members for dive, water recovery, land recovery, vehicle and building extrication, low/high angle rescue, confined space, and more.
- Learning agility
It is important to have well-rounded leaders who have the experience to handle emergencies and also an understanding of teamwork and motivation. Members challenge their leadership to be the example. Rank is not a status symbol, it is an opportunity to improve the team by empowering those who are part of it.
Officers are elected and appointed every two years, or as vacancies arise.
Just like most first responder organizations in our county, members are volunteers that have dedicated their time, and potentially their lives, to the extreme conditions that most people pray never happen. When you or a loved one are in an emergency situation they will be there. They train relentlessly to ensure that when they are on scene, conditions improve.
Support Members are those who, for one reason or another, can’t focus on being hands-on in emergencies. They can however commit their time and expertise in other ways. Fundraisers, community outreach, event planning, and general help with just about everything, the support team is an amazing help that the Squad needs to continue providing service to the community.
Support Members’ pictures are being updated and will appear here when complete.
The London Laurel County Rescuemen’s Club, inc. is a 501(c)(3) designated non-profit organized and operated exclusively to provide administrative, training, and support services to the rescue workers of the London Laurel County Rescue Squad.