LA Fire Department uses motorcycles during Carmageddon

LAFD Motorcycle Response Team
LAFD Motorcycle Response Team
LAFD Motorcycle Response Team. Photo: LAFD

You may have heard about a 10-mile section of Interstate-405, a major freeway in Los Angeles, being closed for the weekend due to the demolition of a portion of a bridge so that the highway could be widened. Dubbed “Carmageddon” and “Carpocalypse”, the closure was expected to cause area-wide gridlock. However, after much hype and fear-mongering by officials and the media, many local residents stayed home and off the highways during the weekend, leading to fewer traffic problems than a normal weekend. The contractors finished the work early, allowing CalTrans to open the I-405 around noon on Sunday, about 18 hours ahead of schedule.

Fire shelters on motorcycles

The freeway closure led to a decision by the Los Angeles Fire Department to create Motorcycle Response Teams, or “Motor Teams”. The LAFD described the Teams on their web site on July 15, 2011:

…Riding Kawasaki KLX 650 KLR 650 motorcycles (kindly on-loan for the weekend from our friends at Kawasaki Motor Corp.), our Firefighter/EMTs will have the ability to more easily move through traffic enroute to an emergency incident. A two-member team (one team = two motorcycles, each with one Firefighter/EMT) will be strategically placed on both the East and West sides of the I-405 freeway. These teams will also patrol their assigned areas, providing up-to-the-minute intelligence on access and egress issues, as well as continuous monitoring of alternate response routes.

LAFD Motorcycle Response Team
On July 15th, 2011 LAFD Firefighters test out Motorcycles to use during I-405 Closure. Photo: LAFD

Each Motor Team will be equipped with a cache of Basic Life Support (BLS) equipment, to include an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), oxygen, other essential medical equipment and supplies to handle most medical incidents, until additional assistance arrives. As these motorcycles will be patrolling a largely “brush area,” they will also be equipped with “saddle bags” to allow for the stowing of a fire shelter and some brush firefighting personal protective equipment. Each “rider” will also have a GPS unit attached to the motorcycle, a radio and Departmental maps.

Upon an emergency or medical incident, the Motor Team will take appropriate action in managing the incident and rendering basic medical care, as necessary. The Teams offer our response, safe and quick maneuverability, flexibility and the opportunity to render continuous care until a patient is transferred to another LAFD resource for transport. These motorcycles are not equipped with lights or sirens and therefore, will respond with caution. The Motor Teams will be deployed during daylight hours only, from 6:00am – 9:00pm on both Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17.

It should be noted, this is a “pilot program” only and may or may not be continued, based largely on the success of the program over this weekend. Future use of the “Motor Teams” may include deployment at large scale incidents up to and including earthquakes, brush fires and in times of high hazard, extreme weather conditions.


Thanks go out to Dick

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. Google+

4 thoughts on “LA Fire Department uses motorcycles during Carmageddon”

  1. The bikes shown in the press release are KLR 650.
    The KLX is close the the KLR but these bikes under the firemen are KLRs, actually world famous too.

    What training are the riders getting?

    Do the firemen take the bikes home for faster response?

    1. Thanks, Wolfgang. I was wondering about that, since I was not able to find a KLX 650 on Kawasakis’s web site — but they do have a KLX 250.

  2. thats a pretty cool idea, but i dont see how it would be effective on large incidents especially a brush fire. And I see where it could allow quicker response in many cases but Im wondering if it might be pretty dangerous as well. Motorcycles are really invisible on the roads. If these first responders were trying to get to a call it may be safe to bet that other motorists will just not see them flying up behind them or from a side road. Not to mention there will likely be more risks taken when a call comes in and a frustrated rider uses the agility of a bike to speed through traffic. Im assumming these bikes dont have lights and sirens.

  3. Tokyo Fire Department has had a program like this for quite some time, this how they respond to medical aids on the outskirts of tokyo. I believe they have some 50 motorcycles in service.

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