For over 20 years BCEMS has provided Buncombe County with some of the best paramedic level care possible. With 70 personnel we operate 9 paramedic ambulances 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and answer more than 20,000 calls per year.
Prior to 1965 funeral homes and a few volunteer fire departments provided transport of the sick and injured to local hospitals. Citing cost and volume of calls most funeral homes in the area announced to the public that they would no longer operate ambulance services. City and County officials for a short time contracted to a Charlotte firm whom provided "The Ambulance Service of Asheville" until a year later when both the City and County jointly created the Asheville-Buncombe Ambulance Service. This continued until June, 1968 when Buncombe County became the provider of services.
EMT training began in January 1974, to largely part time staff who were required to have Advanced First Aid. In February of 1975, in an effort to improve services, the county received a federally funded manpower training grant which provided EMT training and enabled the county to more than double the full time staff.
With Memorial Mission Hospital as a sponsor, EMT-Intermediate classes were held in 1977, with the first IV started in the field in May of 1978. Ambulance call report documentation was initiated in January of 1979, and MAST equipment was placed on Buncombe County units later in the year. In October of 1980, esophageal obturator airway instruction was completed and the airways were placed on the units. The name of the department was changed to Buncombe County Emergency Medical Service to reflect the statewide trend for improved field patient care.
On November 20, 1979, the Buncombe County EMS Advisory Committee suggested to the Board of Commissioners that an EMT- Paramedic program be initiated in the county. In early 1981, classes began at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College. After personnel completed clinical experience with Henderson and McDowell counties, four of seven intermediate units were changed to paramedic units on April 5, 1982. All other units have since been upgraded.