Lakes Area Rescue and Crow Wing County First Responders Zone 1 enhances EMS Capabilities through Strategic Merger

Responders Zone 1 Strategic Merger

(Brainerd, MN) – May 1, 2024 – Formerly known as Crow Wing County First Responders Zone 2, Lakes Area Rescue has undergone significant transformation since its rebranding in 2022 following its expansion into East Gull Lake, while maintaining its service across the First Assessment District in Crow Wing County. Today, Lakes Area Rescue is excited to announce a strategic merger with Crow Wing County First Responders Zone 1 to further enhance emergency medical services (EMS) capabilities across Crow Wing and Cass counties. This merger consolidates the expertise and resources of two established first responder organizations under the banner of Lakes Area Rescue, thereby broadening the scope of emergency coverage and enhancing the level of medical care available to the communities in the Brainerd Lakes area. In the coming months, both departments will collaborate closely to integrate their operations seamlessly

Expanded Coverage Area

The merger significantly broadens the coverage area, now encompassing:

  • First Assessment District
  • East Gull Lake
  • Fort Ripley Township
  • St. Mathias Township
  • Crow Wing Township
  • Oak Lawn Township
  • Nokay Lake Township
  • Long Lake Township
  • Daggett Brook Township
  • Maple Grove Township

These areas, previously served by Zone 1 along with First Assessment and East Gull Lake previously under Zone 2, will benefit from the combined forces of Lakes Area Rescue, enhancing EMS response capabilities. Lakes Area Rescue will provide essential emergency services to a community of over 16,000 residents and an area of 350 Sq. miles.

Community First: A Priority for the Merger

The merger is grounded in the commitment to prioritizing the needs of the community. Lakes Area Rescue views this merger as the best opportunity to serve the community more effectively, with increased resources and a larger, highly skilled team of volunteers.

  • Key Benefits of the Merger Expanded Team of Highly Trained Volunteers: The merger brings together over 50 highly trained volunteers, each bringing a wealth of experience and expertise in various emergency response disciplines. The team’s background is diverse, including EMTs, EMRs, RNs, Paramedics, and Firefighters, among others. The rich blend of skills will ensure that Lakes Area Rescue will have the best possible personnel to handle a wide array of emergency situations.
  • Expanded Response Capabilities: Members will be able to respond across both original first responder areas, enhancing coverage and providing members with the ability to span the area of their emergency responses. Lakes Area Rescue’s members will be able to respond to emergencies in a wider region, responding to calls when they are nearest, regardless of the original zone boundaries.
  • Pooled Resources for Community Events: Combining assets and personnel with the two departments will enhance both agencies’ effectiveness at community events and providing a wider range of EMS services when needed for community gatherings.
  • Enhanced Fundraising and Larger Support Network: The broader and combining of service area enables more robust fundraising capabilities and potential for increased donation opportunities, grants, and county support.
  • Improved Training Opportunities: Better training opportunities for members, enabling high-grade skill development and the ability to train collectively on uniform techniques.
  • Expansion into Advanced Rescue Operations: Lakes Area Rescue’s vision is to expand its range of services to include specialized rescue operations, to include Wildland Search and Rescue as well as Water and Ice emergencies. The initiative plans to add support to the exceptional work being done today by our local fire departments by providing additional manpower, specialized training, and unique equipment. With rescue related calls, much remains unknown until responders arrive on scene—such as the specific location, the nature of the emergency, the resources required, and the medical needs of the victim(s). By enhancing into these services. Lakes Area Rescue’s goal will be to operate in a support capacity, allowing fire departments to retain their command while providing critical assistance and resources as needed. This collaborative approach will enhance overall emergency responsiveness and establish a county-wide automatic mutual aid-like-system for rescue related calls, benefiting all involved agencies and communities.
  • Strengthened Community Services:. With expanded capabilities, Lakes Area Rescue can offer more extensive public health and safety education programs. Aiming to hold regular training sessions and workshops on first aid, CPR, and emergency preparedness for the public.

Supportive Leadership Perspectives

“This merger does not just help our community and citizens; it represents a great opportunity for our members and community alike,” said Daryl, President of Zone 1. “By joining forces with Lakes Area Rescue, we are poised to enhance our service capabilities significantly, ultimately providing better and more comprehensive care to those we serve.”

A Forward-Looking Commitment

“By integrating and joining with Zone 1, we are not just expanding and partnering our services but also reinforcing our readiness to meet the community’s needs,” said Josh Waagmeester, President of Lakes Area Rescue. “This strategic move is designed to enhance our response capabilities significantly and highlights our commitment to our BLA community members and visitors.”

Upcoming Community Event: Meet and Greet Family Fun Night

Join Lakes Area Rescue for their 2nd annual Meet and Greet Family Fun Night on Wednesday May 22nd at the Brainerd International Raceway from 5-7 PM. This event will feature live music, food, a silent auction, raffles, and the popular “Touch a Truck” experience.  Many of the local first responder agencies (Fire, EMS, Law) will be in attendance. It’s a fantastic opportunity for community members to meet local first responders, including our newly merged team. All are welcome to come and enjoy a night of fun, learning, and community building.

About Lakes Area Rescue

Lakes Area Rescue provides emergency medical services (EMS) to Crow Wing County, Cass County and parts of Brainerd. Lakes Area Rescue is a Medical Response Unit (MRU), registered with the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board of Minnesota (EMSRB). When someone dials 911 in an emergency, Lakes Area Rescue members are dispatched through the Crow Wing County and Cass County Sheriff’s office. Once on scene Lakes Area Recues provides a wide range of services to support the patient(s) until they can be transported. Lakes Area Rescue is operated by 100% VOLUNTEERS and funded by 100% DONATIONS from the generosity of our community. They receive no budgetary funds from state or local government. Lakes Area Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

For more information about Lakes Area Rescue please visit

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