Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 10:09 am
Los Angeles firefighter Greg Pascola spotted a column of smoke from the corner of his eye — a fire burning on a distant hillside.
He looked east from his vantage point on a mountaintop road near Mulholland Drive and felt wind at his back. It was 3 p.m. on a September Friday that would see record-breaking heat, and cars choked every lane of the 405 Freeway for miles.
He and his partner gunned their motorcycles.
They are part of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s pilot motorcycle response team, a five-man unit that can speed to the side of an injured victim, provide information to dispatchers and skirt traffic to scout fires and other problems. The unit first rode during last year’s “Carmageddon” closure of the 405, and its next deployment will take place during the follow-up closure this weekend, when workers will demolish the other half of the Mulholland Drive bridge overhead.
Fire departments serving traffic-snarled cities around the nation have adopted similar motorcycle teams to improve response times, staff special events and, in some cases, save lives and resources. As the L.A. department faces budget cuts and intense scrutiny over response times that lag behind national standards, some believe that a roving motorcycle unit could help the department.
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