New rescue ATV aids Brea firefighters in rescue of injured mountain biker from Carbon Canyon
A mountain biker lost control as he rocketed into a corner about three miles deep into a trail along Carbon Canyon in Brea on Monday, March 25. He went down hard in a remote area, was unable to get back up and sustained injuries to his neck and extremities that were likely to leave him hospitalized for at least a few days, according to Division Chief Chris Nigg, a spokesman for the Brea and Fullerton Fire Departments.
He said it would have been impossible for an ambulance to reach the man, and the rough terrain surrounding him would have made it difficult for a helicopter to land nearby to facilitate a rescue. But, with the aid of the ATV-3 Prowler, an all terrain vehicle specially equipped for rescue missions that was recently acquired by the Brea Fire Department, paramedics were able to get to the patient, load him onto a stretcher and deliver him to a crew waiting nearby at Chino Hills State Park to transport him to a hospital — all within about 45 minutes.
“Even with a helicopter, this would have been a difficult operation,” said Nigg. “The area where where he fell was crowded with overgrowth, rutted out and full of mud.”
Those are obstacles that rescue workers covering the hills surrounding Brea confront on a recurring basis, according to Division Chief Kathy Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the Brea and Fullerton Fire Departments. She said firefighters respond to an average of five reports a month regarding people who wind up injured along hiking and bike trails that snake through Carbon Canyon Regional Park and Chino Hills State Park to the east or The Firestone Scout Reservation and Tonner Canyon to the north.
During peak season in the spring and summer, crews have had to perform as many as 10 rescues in those areas in a single month. As warmer temperatures draw more nature lovers to the outdoors, Schaefer said it’s likely only a matter of time before paramedics are sent out to navigate the region’s rugged landscape again.
The department bought ATV-3 in July, and had it ready for service on Oct. 19, according to Brea Fire Department engineer and paramedic Bill Schaefer. He said about $35,000 was spent to purchase and modify the vehicle, and half of that cost was covered by donations from local businesses. It was first deployed on standby duty during the Great Pacific Air Show in Huntington Beach in October, and carried its first patient to safety on March 25.
Firefighters expect to get a lot of use out of the all terrain vehicle, which is capable of transporting a driver and a paramedic along with either four seated passengers or one patient on a stretcher over sand, mud and rocks, according to Nigg.
“We’re going into that canyon pretty often, which is part of why we initially considered getting a piece of equipment like this” he said of ATV-3, a title that refers to the vehicle’s versatility and the fire station where it is kept. “We get calls for anything ranging from snake bites, falls, exhaustion and all kinds of medical emergencies.”
The recently purchased vehicle is outfitted with advanced medical equipment that allows paramedics to treat patients while they are en route to an ambulance. It also has several advantages over a helicopter in search and rescue situations. Transporting patients over land is less dangerous and less labor intensive than hoisting a patient up high into the sky on a stretcher, according to Kathy Schaefer. She said 10 to 12 personnel are typically required to safely airlift a patient, but just two emergency responders are needed to operate the ATV-3.
The vehicle can also be mounted with thermal imaging gear, and is able to stay out on deployment for much longer than a helicopter. That makes ATV-3 an ideal tool for tracking down lost hikers and others who might wind up missing or hurt in rough terrain. Authorities envision a number of other potential applications, but the vehicle has already demonstrated its worth, according to Kathy Schaefer.
“If this helps us save even one person, then it’s worth it,” she said.