Emergency team is help on wheels

Orange Park chief puts more-mobile units on the road in special events.

Clay County Line
These guys make up a special team for special events.

Orange Park firefighters Danny Yeager and Sean Watkins are the bike team, which was formed to patrol during festivities in an effort to quickly reach those needing medical attention.

"It's to make it easier to get to an emergency," Orange Park Fire Rescue Chief Ty Silcox said.

During special events, streets often are closed, crowded with parked cars and traffic can come to a near standstill. These factors make getting to an emergency difficult for a fire engine and rescue unit, Silcox explained.

With more maneuverability, the bike team is able to get to persons needing medical help faster, he said.

"We can put these guys in the [traffic or bike] lanes, and they can maintain the patient until an engine gets there. Sometimes it's not cost-effective to put an engine on the road, and during special events it can be hard for the engine to get there," Silcox said.

When Silcox mentioned the idea to staff, Yeager, who is a former deputy familiar with bike patrol, advised the chief on what he would need. Watkins, who is an avid bike rider, immediately volunteered for the post.

"It [the team] was a big hit at the Fourth [of July celebration]. We had a couple of skinned knees and helped find a lost child," Silcox said.

Though it was something Silcox envisioned two years ago, this Fourth of July was the first time the team was on duty.

"It took awhile to get it together [through budgeting]," Silcox said.

But with the help of Kent Lofton, manager of Champion Cycling & Fitness on Blanding Boulevard, Silcox's dream materialized. Lofton gave Silcox "a great deal" on the purchase of the two bikes, which retail with accessories for about $400. Called hybrids, the aluminum-frame bikes are "a cross between a mountain bike and a road racing bike," meaning "they are comfortable on the road but you can ride off the road," Lofton said. The bikes are equipped with tires that have reflective striping, lights and a rear rack.

Silcox got another surprise when Patrick's Uniforms in Jacksonville donated shirts, biking shorts and biking shoes.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without these companies," Silcox said.

Kelly Chatham of Kelly's Signs in Green Cove Springs designed the "Fire Rescue" decals on the frame.

The men and their bikes are mini-ambulances, carrying approximately 40 pounds of equipment that includes intravenous fluids, oxygen, bandages, splints, gauze and a defibrillator.

For the men of the team, it's hardly work.

"I think it's perfect to get out in the community with that one-on-one contact," Vaughn said.

"I love riding bikes. And this is more of an intimate relationship [with the community]. You feel like you are part of the crowd. You're more involved with the public," said Watkins, who is a paramedic.

deborah.cearnaljacksonville.com, (904) 278-9487, extension 11