Since 2010, the Lincolnton Fire Department has maintained one of only a handful of bike response teams in the state, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal website.
According to Jeffrey Hurt, 29, agency firefighter and one of 13 current bike members, Greensboro Fire Department has been the only other fire department in North Carolina to form a similar team over the years.
Hurt has been on the team since its inception and has served as a Lincolnton firefighter for six years.
All members of the local bike response team have completed a 32-hour training course through the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA).
The OSFM website noted the course consists of topics such as how to ride in numerous traffic conditions and riding around obstacles such as curbs and stairs.
Catawba County and Lincoln County EMS also participated in the 2010 training.
Former Fire Chief Mike Lee, who has since retired from the Lincolnton Fire Department, established the bike response team to be utilized for both large annual city events and gatherings such as the Apple Festival, Relay for Life and Hog Happenin’ — when roads are closed — and other crowded situations in which it would be difficult for a fire truck to maneuver.
“Anytime there’s going to be complications of getting apparatus or ambulances anywhere,” Hurt said. “It’s just a different way of providing a service.”
Firefighters carry two-way radios along with an AED and other medical supplies on their bikes.
Current Fire Chief Mitch Burgin said sometimes the team could also respond to a fire faster than a truck and radio back to fellow firefighters a description of the scene.
“They can get there and advise on radio what’s going on,” he said.
The team’s bikes stemmed from the Lincolnton Police Department, which also once operated a bike team.
Burgin said the fire department purchased the bikes sometime during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
By recycling the bikes, the city saved taxpayers money, a significant item to note, Burgin said, since the economy is weak and people are “watching every penny.”
The fire department did spend a minimal amount of funds to purchase new tires for the bikes and cover additional routine maintenance costs.
In addition to fire response, the team leads 5K races in the community in case there is a need for medical attention and trains on occasion to keep in shape and stay up-to-date on team skills and techniques.
Hurt enjoys being able to combine his love for firefighting and biking.
“I’ve ridden a bike my whole life,” he said, “and I can put my fire department training and bike skills together.”