Los Angeles Firefighters Test Motorcycle Response Units

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a pilot motorcycle response team that consists of a five-man unit that is being used to speed to the side of an injured victim, provide information to dispatchers and skirt traffic to scout fires and other problems, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The unit first rode during last year’s “Carmageddon” closure of the 405 Freeway, and its next deployment is to take place during a follow-up closure this weekend, when workers will demolish the other half of the Mulholland Drive bridge overhead.

Fire departments serving traffic-snarled cities around the nation have adopted similar motorcycle teams to improve response times, staff special events and, in some cases, save lives and resources. As the L.A. Fire Department faces budget cuts and intense scrutiny over response times that lag behind national standards, some believe that a motorcycle unit could help the department.

The pilot unit features five off-road-capable motorcycles on loan from the Kawasaki Motor Corp. Each bike retails for about $6,300 and is outfitted with a defibrillator, a small fire extinguisher, various medical supplies and a handlebar-mounted GPS system. A dozen firefighters have undergone the necessary training, and a permanent unit could have up to 10 motorcycles and 28 riders, said Capt. Craig White, who first proposed the unit to the department.

Recently, as a 70-acre brush fire stopped traffic on the 405 and caused the evacuation of the Getty Center, firefighter Greg Pascola and his partner reached the command post within three minutes — even before helicopters could reach the site. They were handed radios and began to map the blaze, weaving between cars, hopping sidewalks and navigating narrow, curving mountain roads.

LAFD Chief Brian Cummings said motorcycles could be “one of the solutions” the department considers for improving response times.

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