The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad, or CARS, is among the busiest rescue squads in the nation with nearly 8,000 yearly responses. Due to lack of sufficient space, the agency submitted a building modification request to Charlottesville’s Board of Zoning Appeals last May. Although the board granted some of the requested changes — even those that required exceptions to zoning laws — it did not grant the total amount of requested space. Despite the rescue squad’s location in a residentially zoned area intended primarily for single-family use, the city should approve the agency’s building modifications as requested in order to support the growing base of volunteers and available emergency vehicles. The number of CARS volunteers has doubled to approximately 200 in recent years, according to CARS Chief Dayton Haugh.
Such changes are not unprecedented. Charlottesville and the county’s recent growth, coupled with increased volunteer staffing in the case of agencies such as Seminole Trail, has necessitated building expansions for local emergency services agencies. In October 2014, Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department completed a $3 million building renovation to accommodate the station’s fire engines and the more than 70 volunteers who had outgrown the old building. The previous year, the City of Charlottesville opened a new $14 million fire station, which serves University students.
Additionally, the rescue squad’s vehicles — ambulances, heavy squad trucks and water rescue apparatus — have quadrupled. CARS has had difficulty accommodating the influx of volunteers and additions of newer, larger apparatus within the building that has stood on McIntire Road since 1964. “The trucks don’t fit,” Haugh said in a recent interview with C-VILLE Weekly. “It’s 2015.” Not to mention the recent winter storm which slammed Charlottesville and placed heavy demands on our city’s emergency services resources.
Last semester, the Managing Board published an editorial advocating that Charlottesville keep its rescue squad charge-free. Central to the piece’s argument was the notion that the charge-free policy keeps our city safe by providing high-quality emergency services at no cost to students and community members. In this editorial, we affirm the belief that the safety of fellow students and community members is of significant importance. While CARS has yet to see its lack of sufficient space produce noteworthy impediments to incident responses, it is in the best interest of the city to be proactive maintaining high-quality emergency services. Ensuring that the local rescue squad has appropriate space to house its fleet of emergency vehicles would preserve that quality.