ASHE COUNTY — Bike riders of the Blue Ridge Brutal can feel assured that there are first responders to help them at all the rest stops along the way during the event on Aug. 8.
Approximately 50 trained volunteers from the Ashe County Volunteer Fire Departments (VFD’s) will be stationed at each rest stop with a fire truck that is outfitted with first aid equipment. When the first responders hear of an injury, they can drive the truck to the injured biker. All day during the Brutal ride, the Ashe Rescue Squad vehicles and caregivers remain at the Ashe Civic Center and wait to be called for emergencies.
The Blue Ridge Brutal is one of the premier fundraising events in Ashe County. Started as the brain child of Maude Calhoun in 1990, the Brutal raises money to support the Ashe Civic Center. The ride brings 500 to 1000 visitors to Ashe County on the second Saturday in Aug.. Burt Prange has coordinated the presence of the VFD members for the full 26 year history of the race.
It is a testimony to the VFD Good Samaritans that the VFD’s have been assisting at the Brutal since the first ride. VFD members have three levels of medical training: medical responder, emergency medical technician, and paramedic. All are state certified and every four years the volunteers must demonstrate their medical skills. In addition, they are required to have 24 hours a year of classroom training at special training meetings.
In Ashe County there are three levels of intermediate medical assistance: Ashe Medics, which is a business providing care and transport; the Ashe Rescue Squad, a medical care and transport squad, and the VFD’s which provide care. Ashe Medics has three 4×4 ambulances and three other ambulances. When a citizen calls 911 for an ambulance, the first call goes to Ashe Medics, and the Ashe Rescue Squad provides back up. The Ashe Rescue Squad has three ambulances and a crash truck, which has, for example, all the tools to cut a vehicle to release a person trapped inside. Two VFD’s have ambulances: Helton and Fleetwood.
VFD’s work with the Sheriff’s Department and the State Highway Patrol. When there is a traffic accident with a fatality, it takes the State Highway Patrol three to four hours to complete the investigation. In the meantime, it is often the VFD, which has arrived on the scene first, to direct traffic around the accident while the investigation is being completed.
What makes the members of the VFD’s give up their time on the day of the Blue Ridge Brutal, the monthly meetings, training meetings, plus being on call 24/7? According to Prange, who has been a member of the VFD since 1979, he wanted to be able to help his neighbors if they had medical problems and wants to keep the Blue Ridge Brutal riders safe. Ashe County residents and the riders in the Brutal bike ride are indeed fortunate that there are so many Good Samaritans in the Volunteer Fire Departments.