City, county partner to operate regional mass evacuation bus

ASHEVILLE – The Asheville Fire Department recently received delivery of a mass evacuation bus that will greatly increase public safety officials’ ability to handle larger emergencies and disasters in the region.

It was purchased with a $357,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grant Program, said Asheville Fire Department Division Chief Joe Meadows.

The bus, also called a mobile ambulance, can transport 19 patients on stretchers, or 28 sitting.

In a major disaster, without this resource, 12 ambulances would be needed to transport this number of patients, greatly straining the system.

The bus will be used to address “natural disasters, mass casualty incidents, mass evacuations of facilities and rehabilitation,” Meadows said.

The fire department used the ambulance today, July 26, during a structure fire in the Upper Hominy Fire District. Meadows said it was “being utilized as rehabilitation unit for firefighters who are on the scene working in heated conditions,” which are even more severe in the current heatwave.

The bus is available for emergency response to all counties in the western part of North Carolina. It is operated through a joint partnership between the City of Asheville and Buncombe County Emergency Management Services.

Regional responses will be dispatched under the direction of North Carolina Emergency Management.