The streets are closed and crowded during Bele Chere, but that can’t stop Asheville Fire and Rescue from being able to get to people if there is a problem that needs its attention. That’s why two pairs of City of Asheville firefighters are roving the festival on bicycles. Bele Chere marks the only regular event during which Asheville Fire and Rescue breaks out the bikes.
Firefighters Patrick Crudup and Clem Kramer make up one of the bike teams on duty for the festival, and despite the change in transportation, Crudup says the skills they use on the scene are not too different from the ones they use every day.
“Apart from the riding, the skills we use are the ones we work on anyway,” Crudup says. Using bikes also allows the firefighters to interact more closely with the public at Bele Chere, answering questions and watching for problems. The bike patrols join the Asheville Police Department’s regular downtown unit, which also use bikes, foot patrols and Segues and was launched in 2009. Between the two bikes, the team can pack all of the gear it needs to administer aid on the scene, from blood pressure gauges and basic medications to a defibrillator and an airway bag.
The teams are also backed up by three smaller vehicles that have the capability of maneuvering the tight confines of Bele Chere’s streets. Those vehicles have the capability of transporting a patient outside the festival boundaries where a standard ambulance can take over. Another ATV can work as a hose truck in case of fire.
The AFD also staffs three first aid tents during the festival: at Patton Ave. and Church St., College St. and Lexington Ave. and inside the Asheville Civic Center. Operations are handled from the Asheville Fire and Rescue headquarters across from Pack Square Park.