Firemen taking to bikes for festival

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Fire Department’s newest vehicles do not have emergency lights, sirens, a ladder or a hose.

And they’ve only got two wheels.

The department recently purchased a pair of bicycles for firefighters to use while providing medical coverage at events with large crowds. They will make their debut this weekend at the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival.

“The bikes give them a little more mobility,” Fire Chief Eric Taylor said. “You wouldn’t want to have a fire truck down there in the middle of a thousand people.”

The bikes cost $800 apiece and are equipped with bags to carry medical equipment, including a C collar, ankle brace, EpiPen, oxygen bottle and even an automated external defibrillator.

Taylor said minor medical events, like chest pains or falls, are not uncommon at gatherings like the Homecoming. Although the main fire station is close to the Homecoming sites downtown, firefighters on bikes will already be among the attendees, he said.

“They’ll be out riding around,” Taylor said.

Pvt. Todd Gebhardt, the department’s public information officer, will be one of the first riders Friday evening.

“It’s definitely easier to get through large crowds,” he said. “It’ll help our response time.”

Gebhardt noted there will also be special uniforms for the firefighters on bikes that are comfortable to wear and visible so members of the public can easily spot them.

“I think just having our presence around will make people feel more comfortable,” he said.

Taylor said allowing more interaction with the public is another benefit of the bikes.

Beyond Homecoming, Taylor foresees using the bikes at events like the Point Park Concert Series and the Fourth of July fireworks in City Park. He said the bikes could also be useful in an emergency at the city’s Johnson T. Janes Park, where bike and hiking trails are being developed.