Using bicycles in emergency service response is not a new idea, but the La Crosse Fire Department is not adding just any bikes to their fleet.
In October, city council members passed a resolution allowing the fire department to use grant money to build two custom EMS bicycles.
"We wanted to keep the money local, because it was a local organization that gave it to us," said Frank Garritano, EMS Trainer and Firefighter with the La Crosse Fire Department. "We wanted to keep it within the city. Wyatt Bicycles was the perfect fit."
Wyatt Bicycles specializes in fat tire bicycles. The tires will help firefighters navigate the area year-round.
"It's the ultimate all-terrain bicycle," said Wyatt Hrudka, Owner of Wyatt Bicycles. "You can ride it in the snow, sand, dirt, mud, rocks."
The bicycles also help first responders better serve the public in crowded venues.
"We can respond to various locations in a quicker manner," Garritano said. "Especially like Oktoberfest when there's a lot of people. We don't want a truck down there. We don't want to have vehicles that are cumbersome and big to go through the crowds."
Wyatt Bicycle has worked with the La Crosse Fire Department to finalize the designs, customizing the bicycles down to the smallest detail.
"It's awesome having a local resource that we can sit down with and talk face-to-face with," said Garritano. "Everything's manufactured here within the city, so if we have any questions, we can come right to the manufacturer himself and say, 'This is what we want. This is what we want changed,' and he's more than happy to help us out with that."
"We can match the fire truck colors or any colors that they essentially want, because it's all done in house," Hrudka said.
Hrudka said the partnership fits in with his goal to custom build bikes for other local police and fire departments over the next year.
Garritano said he has not heard of any other fire departments using fat tire bicycles with emergency response, but he expects more agencies may add the tool in the future.
Hrudka hopes to start build the bikes next week. The La Crosse Fire Department is expected to have them in use by the end of the year.