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January 27, 2011
Va. rescue squad disbands
By Amanda Codispoti
ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. — Roanoke County's Mount Pleasant First Aid Crew has run its last call, ending 53 years of service. The 14-member crew couldn't keep up with training demands, an increasing call volume and a decline in volunteers, said the squad's chief, Ann Meyer. It ran its last call about a month ago.
"I'm very sad, and I feel guilty for having to do this, but you know, there was just no way we could really be as viable as we should be with the amount of people we actually have," Meyer said. Career paramedics have staffed the Mount Pleasant station for several years and will continue to respond to calls, Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Chief Rick Burch said.
"The citizens will not see any change," Burch said. Burch and the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors recognized Meyer and other squad members for their service at the board's meeting Tuesday night. The first aid crew has given its assets, which included donations from the community, to the county department. The county will use the money to buy a new ambulance and emergency medical equipment for the station.
"It's certainly a great help to the county," said Supervisor Mike Altizer, whose district includes Mount Pleasant. Residents have been sympathetic with the squad's decision, Altizer said.
The squad began in the basement of a community grocery store in 1958, when the closest ambulance was in downtown Roanoke, according to the county resolution expressing appreciation for the squad. The squad's first ambulance was an Army surplus vehicle that had to be jump-started every time there was a call.
In 1973, the squad moved to what is now known as the Mount Pleasant Public Safety Building, or station No. 6, on Jae Valley Road. The squad had 14 members on its roster last year, but only about eight were active, Meyer said.
The squad has had a hard time recruiting new members because its station is small compared with others in the county, and because people who are trained to be medics often want a full-time job in the field, Meyer said. In addition, medic training is time-consuming, Meyer said. The medics work and have families, which often come before volunteering. "I think it's just a sign of the times," Meyer said.
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