Altamahaw-Ossipee Fire Department Captain Justin Newton fills the 100-gallon tank on the ATV trailer as firefighter Michael Sasser runs the pump panel on Engine/Tanker 22 during a training session at the Shallow Ford Natural Area in Elon on Wednesday.
The ATV rescue team based out of the Altamahaw-Ossipee Fire Department came through with flying colors in its first call for help this past weekend.
Members of the Haw River Fire Department responded to an off-road crash involving an ATV at 2:27 a.m. Saturday. The accident happened in the woods off Stone Street Extension and involved a male who suffered injuries to his lower extremities. He was found lying in a creek and was unable to walk.
Jamie Joseph, Haw River’s assistant chief, estimated the accident site at about a mile from the closest road.
Joseph said he and fellow firefighters got to the scene, took a look at all that would have been involved in getting the victim back to the road to an ambulance, and requested mutual aid from A-O’s ATV rescue team. Within about 25 minutes, A-O team members and their equipment were in Haw River.
“If we hadn’t had them, I’m not sure we’d have gotten the guy out,” Joseph said. “We’d have had to have crossed hills and valleys. There wouldn’t have been anything easy about it.”
He said the victim was a big guy, weighing about 250 pounds. Joseph said he and fellow members of the Haw River Fire Department considered requesting a Life Flight helicopter, but they weren’t flying because of inclement weather.
He said he couldn’t have been more impressed by the fast response of the A-O squad and the professionalism displayed in getting the victim to an ambulance. They loaded him and secured him to an ATV-transport, then carried him to a waiting ambulance manned by paramedics from Alamance County EMS.
“They did a great job,” Joseph said. “This shows the need for a group like this. We had no alternative.”
The ATV rescue team at A-O was organized last fall. Team members have trained for everything from assisting injured hikers to dousing brush fires far off the beaten path.
Equipment included in the ATV rescue team’s entourage includes a variety of medical equipment and a 100-gallon tanker that rides on a skid pulled by an ATV. The water tank can be removed and replaced by a stokes basket for victim transport.
All of the equipment is carried in an enclosed trailer that’s a part of the department’s heavy rescue operation.
“Everything worked flawlessly,” Billy Andrews said of Saturday’s rescue. He’s a captain with the A-O Fire Department and was the driving force behind the creation of the ATV rescue team.
Andrews said he and his fellow firefighters at A-O want to spread the word that the ATV rescue unit is available to any other fire department in the county or any law enforcement agency in need of its services.
“It’s here for everybody’s use,” Andrews said.
At times like Saturday, the ATV rescue unit can prove invaluable. It can also prove a blessing to firefighters who have to get well into the woods to stop a blaze. Andrews has noted that 100 gallons of water weighs more than 800 pounds. Try putting that on your back and going for a hike.
Joseph said he feels demand for the ATV rescue squad will grow as hiking trails in Alamance County become increasingly popular. The Haw River Trail, he said, will do nothing but find more users and the planned expansion of Cedarock Park will result in more hikers taking to its trails.
Accidents, and with them the call for emergency rescue, are bound to happen on occasion.
“There’s going to be more need for them in the future,” Joseph said.