Fighting fire with a motorcycle; or, how do I apply for this job?

Mercyside fire motorcycle
Firefighter Chris Bowers arrives at a car fire on his fire fighting motorcycle during a training exercise in Liverpool, northern England, July 23, 2010. Photo: Phil Noble

At least one fire department in the United Kingdom is outfitting motorcycles with fire equipment so that they can respond to and suppress or at least knock down small fires. In a six-month trial that began in August, 2010, the Mercyside Fire and Rescue Service outfitted two BMW RT1200 police-spec motorcycles with 30-meter hose reels and 25-liter water tanks which hold water and foam.

Mercyside worked with Universal Carbon Fibres to develop personal protective equipment for the rider/firefighter that not only meets the EU standards for firefighters, but also the EU professional motorcycle rider standards.

Mercyside fire motorcycles

The bikes will be dispatched to fires instead of a large engine when fires are not expected to be a threat to people or structures, thereby freeing up larger apparatus for use elsewhere. The equipment on one bike can fight a fire for two to three minutes. The bikes will be sent to trash or “antisocial” fires, which account for 60% of the department’s responses.

HERE is a link to a 47-second video showing the two-wheeled apparatus in action. The firefighter is using what appears to be a small, specialized breathing apparatus as he knocks down a vehicle fire.

Mercyside and other departments in Europe have previously used four-wheeled ATV’s with water, motorcycles to transport chief officers to fire scenes, or motorcycles as transportation for paramedics to medical aids, but this is the first we have heard of a motorcycle being outfitted with a water tank and hose.

And, of course, ATV’s with water or fire ignition equipment are routinely used in the United States for wildland fires or prescribed fires.

And speaking of ATV’s on prescribed fires, here’s an example of one that caught fire while working on a prescribed fire in South Dakota. It was carrying an “ATV drip torch” on the back. I believe the story is that the ATV rolled, and in the process an extra 5-gallon can of torch mix in the front cargo rack fell out and/or leaked fuel, which quickly ignited and spread to the surrounding vegetation and the ATV. The operator was not injured in the roll-over, but I think he received a minor burn while attempting to put out the ATV fire. (Maybe someone can refresh my memory on this.)

Burned ATV Wind Cave National Park
The remains of a Honda ATV on the Highland Creek prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park, October 19, 2002. NPS photo.
Thanks Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Fighting fire with a motorcycle; or, how do I apply for this job?”

  1. 2006 or 2007 I was on a fire in Washington where ATV’s were burned up on the fire line. We ended up netting the remains and flying them out. Like the pictured one, not much left. I understand the operators had to walk out.


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