Isle of Wight adds ambulance at Rushmere fire station

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Rushmere Volunteer Fire Department has reached a milestone in its planned expansion into emergency medical services.

An ambulance from the Isle of Wight County Volunteer Rescue Squad, known as Medic 30, went into service at the Rushmere station off Old Stage Highway for the first time on Jan. 3.

Rescue Squad Chief Brian Carroll said the ambulance is tentatively to be staffed 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. by career emergency medical technicians employed by Isle of Wight County Emergency Services.

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Adding an ambulance for Rushmere, an unincorporated community home to just over 1,100 residents at Isle of Wight’s northernmost border with Surry County, should help improve response times, Carroll said. The Rushmere fire and EMS service district, which spans north from the intersection of Wrenns Mill Road and Old Stage Highway to where Lawnes Creek meets the James River, accounts for roughly 180, or 6%, of the Rescue Squad’s 2,600 to 2,800 annual calls, Carroll said.

Prior to the addition of the Rushmere medic, ambulances responding to Rushmere calls were dispatched from a station on Great Spring Road in Smithfield, nearly 5½ miles away. There were “many days” previously when all five medics stationed at the Rescue Squad were responding to other calls, Carroll said.

Eventually, Isle of Wight County plans to expand the two-bay Rushmere fire station to include a third for the new ambulance. Isle of Wight’s 2022-23 capital improvements budget earmarked roughly $900,000 to add a bay to the circa-1990 station.

Another factor that’s improved response times in the county’s northern end, Carroll said, is neighboring Surry’s lessening dependence on Isle of Wight to field its EMS calls. From mid-2020 through the end of 2022, Isle of Wight responded to more than 170 calls originating from Surry per the terms of a mutual aid agreement between the two counties. Surry, in mid-2023 following the dissolution of the 59-year-old Surry Volunteer Rescue Squad, amended its contract with a third-party ambulance service – Emergency Services Solutions Inc. – to add a second medic crew to make up for the loss.

As a result of the second contracted ambulance, Surry’s dependence on Isle of Wight “has weaned off tremendously,” Carroll said.