As Research Triangle Park had its beginnings in the 1950’s, a planned subdivision was conceived and located to begin about a mile west of the crossroads of NC 54, known as the Nelson-Chapel Hill Hwy and NC 55, know as Apex Hwy. Its purpose was to give employees of the growing RTP a place to live, close to work, as Southern Durham County was farm or woodlands. Research Triangle Park tenants were moving in, with names like IBM, GE, Nortel, Burroughs-Wellcome, Glaxo, and U.S. Gov’t. Agencies - EPA, NIEHS just to name a few. Parkwood a planned community of single family homes, apartments, townhouses, a central shopping center, an elementary school and 100 acres set aside for greenways and parks.
The residents of this community formed one of the first homeowners associations in North Carolina, admitting the first member on September 25, 1960.
So, as the neighboring Research Triangle Park grew, Parkwood was growing and the need for Fire Department / Rescue Squad to be close and readily available became a priority with the residents.
Therefore in 1968, a small group of residents; Richard C. Beach, Leroy A. Castle, Donald A. Davis, Ronald J. Frey, Edward C. Grace, Frank Grice, James L. Pollard, John H. Rudisell III, Rev. Floyd Sides, et al, and under the leadership of Thomas M. Davis and Albert Morganelli, banded together and organized the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department.
These founding members formed a corporation and on November 8th, 1968. Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. was charted under the laws of the State of North Carolina and selected T. Mike Davis at the first Chief. Patricia A Beach served as Secretary to the Board of Directors.
The first year of official existence was devoted primarily to development, organization and training. Key Homes/Kavanaugh-Smith Construction, the developer of the Parkwood subdivision, donated land for a fire station (site across the street from current Station #1). The corporation than secured loans enabling a metal building to be constructed and allowing the department to obtain a fire truck. Spring 1969 came and Parkwood VFD was gaining volunteers and momentum. In April, thirty-five citizens began the 42-hr Basic Firefighting Course taught through the NC Community Colleges. The City of Durham Fire Department's Chief, Cosmos Cox, loaned a reserve pumper to the newly formed Parkwood VFD. The pumper was not placed into service due to lack of adequate protective clothing. However, on May 7th that year, twenty-seven of these “rookie” firefighters got their first test of fire when Durham FD requested mutual-aid for manpower and its reserve pumper in response to the Venable Tobacco Co fire in downtown Durham.
May 14th, 1969. A week after our response with DFD, our first apparatus arrived. A new 1969 Ward-LaFrance 1000 gpm Pumper, and designated Engine 966. The next day we performed an acceptance test and installed equipment and the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department, officially went into service on May 16th, 1969. Our first response was to a woods fire on Radcliff Circle in Parkwood.
Rescue services as part of Parkwood VFD were part of our original mission. On August 21, 1969 tragedy struck the department when a firefighter’s son was run over by a garbage truck. Many members began first-aid training through the American Red Cross immediately thereafter, as a nationwide trend to improve Emergency Medical Services would later become today’s EMT and Paramedic programs.
We completed our first year of official existence on October 30th, 1969 since incorporating with responding to a total of 46 fire calls and 8 rescue calls. November, the NC Fire Insurance Rating Bureau, officially inspected the department for application of an insurance rating to a proposed fire district. On January 15, 1970 a three-mile Parkwood Fire District was approved with a 9AA rating, but by the following year, 1971, a four-mile district would be submitted and approved.
The 1970’s would bring more growth, beginning with the addition of a much needed tanker truck to use, as the subdivision had hydrants and our new district areas did not. In 1970, Scott Oil Co. of Durham donated a 1946 International Fuel Oil truck that could carry 1200 gallons of water. Upon refurbishing, designated Tanker 967 (nicknamed "Bertha") was placed in service.
In the fall of 1971 we purchased a 1951 open cab Mack pumper from the Newton Square Fire Department in Pennsylvania. It was refurbished so as to carry 750 gallons of water. With this addition, "Bertha" had to move outside as there was just barely room for two trucks in the original fire station.
The number of first aid calls continued to grow and the department began searching for a separate vehicle to handle these calls. General Telephone Company was approached as to the possibility of purchasing an old van. Instead GTE graciously donated a 1964 Ford Econoline van and also painted it white for us. The firemen built cabinets and outfitted the van, placing it in service as an ambulance/rescue vehicle in March of 1972.
Two vehicles were now housed outside, exposed to the elements. This was especially troublesome in the winter due to the freezing of water pipes on "Bertha". Since Parkwood was growing faster than the contributions to the department, a method was sought which would provide financial support from everyone in the community. We needed better housing and better equipment in order to serve the community, so a fire tax was considered as a solution to the problem. The firemen campaigned in the winter of 1972 to get support for a referendum. In April of 1973, the Parkwood Fire Tax District was passed (465 for and 33 against).
Planning began in the fall of 1973 on the construction of a new fire station with a bathroom and running water and within the means of the fire tax rate we had promised the community. In January of 1974, we purchased a 1967 Cadillac ambulance from, again, Newton Square in Pennsylvania to replace the converted telephone truck. Also, in January, while responding to a working house fire, "Bertha" turned over and was totally destroyed. No one was hurt, but this left us without a tanker. We searched and found a 1967 International diesel truck with a capacity for 2500 gallons of water, which was quickly named "Big Bertha". It was refurbished and placed into service in April 1974.
Later in the spring of 1974, Key Homes donated land across the street from our metal building for the construction of a new station. At the same time the Corporation made application to the Farmers' Home Administration for a low interest loan to build a new station and to pay off old debts. In the fall of 1974, our rescue calls were increasing more rapidly than our fire calls and a higher level of service was needed. To meet this need, eight firemen completed the State's new Emergency Medical Technician course.
The next several years were a period of rapid growth for the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department. The 1964 rescue truck was donated to the Atlantic Beach Fire Department in February and in October our Farmers' Home Administration loan was approved for the construction of a new station. Ground was broken on November l6, 1975.
In the spring of 1976, a new chassis was ordered for us to build a tanker on and a new modular ambulance was ordered through the Governor's Highway Safety Program with us matching the Federal Funds. The new station was completed and on Wednesday, September 15, 1976, and at 2300 hours, operations were moved into the new station. A week later, our 1976 GMC tanker was put into service and "Big Bertha" was sold to the Emerald Isle Volunteer Fire Department. In October, our new rescue ambulance was put into service and we were chosen to use it on standby for President Gerald R. Ford during his visit to the North Carolina State Fair. The new station was dedicated on November 7, 1976.
The late seventies were spent upgrading our equipment in order to keep pace with the needs of our rapidly growing area. In August of 1978, an Emergency One attack pumper with a rescue body mounted on a Chevrolet chassis was placed in service. Our 1951 Mack was sold to a fireman to make room for a 1978 Ford Emergency One pumper that went into service in September. Our Cadillac ambulance was retired when we received a 1978 Ford van ambulance through the Governor's Highway Safety program.
The Parkwood community, now approximately 4,000 residents and the surrounding area, especially Research Triangle Park, grew rapidly. In October of 1980, the Board of Directors took the position that the department would maintain adequate fire protection for the Parkwood Fire District by keeping pace with the growing area. This embarked us on another building campaign during which three more bays and a training room were added on to the station. In July of 1982, a Kenworth Emergency One pumper/tanker was placed in service and September saw the introduction of our Kenworth Emergency One pumper/telesquirt (old Tower 1).
In the spring and early summer of 1983, the need for fire protection in the Southwest corner of Durham Co. was evident and volunteers in that area were recruited and the Parkwood West Fire District was formed. Parkwood Station # 2 located at 4200 Farrington Road adjacent to the Five Oaks Subdivision was dedicated on July 16th, 1984.
During 1985 and 1986, both the Parkwood Fire District (Station 1) and the Parkwood West Fire District (Station 2) continued to grow adding more responsibility. The area just outside of the Research Triangle Park continued its unbelievable growth. New corporations had opened complexes in the Park and some of the Parkwood West Fire District was lost with voluntary annexation to the City of Durham.
To keep pace with the growth in the Parkwood Fire District, Station 3 was built at 4716 Old Page Road in the Nelson community. The station building was completed in late June of 1986 and occupied February 4, 1987. Part of the station was leased to the Durham County Sheriffs Department for its Southern Substation till July 2004.
In the last couple of years we have added several new trucks to help us keep pace with our districts growing needs. In June of 1987, we placed into service a 1986 Chevy 4X4 Brush Unit. In January of 1988, we placed into service a 1987 Duplex Emergency One rescue/pumper. We also placed into service in February 1988 a 1987 Duplex Emergency One pumper/tanker.
On August 31, 1987, the City of Durham annexed about 25% of Station one's fire district. We developed a partnership by contracting with the city and continue to provide fire protection to parts of this area along with the City of Durham Fire Department.
During the twelve months ending June 30, 1987, the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department responded to 940 alarms. 412 were fire calls of which 122 were heavy rescue type calls, and 528 were emergency medical service calls. Our roster consisted of 52 firefighters of which 20 were Emergency Medical Technicians (8 of these were intermediate level EMTs and 1 was a Paramedic). During the year, those firefighters completed more than 9,900 man-hours of fire department training. This did not include the hours our EMTs and firefighter/rescue specialists spent in training and continuing education.
By the 1990’s, Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department with three stations; Station #1 in Parkwood Sub-division; Station #2 - 7 miles west on Farrington Road, and Station #3 - 6 miles east of Station 1 on Old Page Rd. We became a combination department by having paid and volunteer personnel as well.
Keeping pace with growth wasn’t an easy task. Subdivisions were developing as fast as people could move in. Infrastructure of shopping, transportation, and annexation by the City of Durham affected our operations and we adapted each time to meet the challenge. Training was always a number one priority to maintain a high standard of service to the community. Our tax district steadily grew smaller as the City of Durham annexed subdivisions and areas of our fire response area. To meet the needs of our community, we contracted with the City to provided fire response services to our immediate area and partnered with the City of Durham Fire Department to coordinate fire and rescue responses. In addition to our fire, rescue, and emergency medical services, in 1997 Parkwood VFD, in a cooperative venture with Durham Co. Emergency Management, was selected to house one of the NC HazMat Regional Response Teams, which covered an 11 county area of Central NC. This response team was very unique among the 6 teams across the state (a 7th team was added in 2004). NC RRT-4 was composed of mostly volunteers from the HazMat field. Many were RTP employees full-time, hazardous materials professionals who would bring their expertise to the team. The other teams across the state were mostly based with large city fire departments with fire department only personnel.
Finally in 1998 PVFD upgrade its EMS service level to Paramedic and provides 24hr paramedic/emergency medical services to all of southern Durham County, as a member of the Durham County EMS system. By decades end our call volume had become 4000 annually, with 17 paid staff and 100 volunteers.
The new century brought with it more growth and changes to Parkwood VFD. As growth of Southern Durham County and Northern Chatham County continued with new residential subdivisions, one of the largest shopping malls in the southeast -The Streets At Southpoint, the widening of Interstate 40, our relationship with the City of Durham Fire Department grew closer. Recognizing the needs of our citizens, a plan of closest engine response was built into the dispatch response plan for the City and County of Durham. In addition because PVFD EMS responds with the City of Durham on EMS calls as well, we began to train with City of Durham FD units in others areas such as rescue and hazmat.
Today, Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department is the largest, state-of-the-art, highest rated volunteer fire department in Durham and surrounding counties. We maintain a roster of 20 paid staff, 36 part-time staff, and 150 volunteers and no longer require our volunteers live or work within our district as we do station manning with our volunteer program. Fire Prevention/Life Safety program is available to our community. Our cadet program was rejuvenated in 2004 which is a combination Explorer/Jr. Firefighter program. The Friends/Family group formed an official PVFD Auxiliary, and has been listed as a Fire Corps program inviting the community to help us with non-fire related operations. Our future is bright and our partnerships are strong.