During the latter part of World War II, Washington, D.C. became an active area for military pilot training. There were at least four military installations operating aircraft within twenty miles of Berwyn Heights. The increasing demand on area fire departments for special aircraft rescues resulted in the formation of many special rescue units within Prince George’s County. Sometime in 1945 Berwyn Heights formed the first “Heavy Duty” Rescue Squad in the County specially equipped for extrication of student pilots as well as victims of automobile accidents. Placed in service that year was the Department’s first rescue vehicle–a 1937 One-Quarter-Ton GMC Panel Truck. To the best of the Department’s knowledge, this was one of the first Heavy Duty Squads on the East Coast.
When Berwyn Heights organized the Rescue Squad they were placed under the County Rescue Squad Association and designated as Rescue Squad 8. All other Rescue Squads in the County were actually ambulances and although the Berwyn Heights concept of a Rescue Squad was not such, the unit was still part of the County’s Rescue Squad/Ambulance fleet. The Department would not operate an ambulance until much later.
By the late 1950’s a few departments were operating Heavy Duty Rescue Squads and there was a need to designate them separately from the units that were used for transporting sick and injured persons to the hospital. Departments with Heavy Duty Squads would now refer to the unit as “Rescue Squad,” followed by their company number. Those units previously referred to as Rescue Squads would now be called Ambulances.
The Department operated several rescue vehicles in the early years including a 1950 GMC One Ton Panel Truck, followed by a 1956 International provided by the Civil Defense.