The increase of trail building (200 hundred miles and counting) in Northwest Arkansas is leading to huge growth in mountain biking and bike tourism. We love that more people are finding and using our trails! We also know that bike riding comes with risks, some we can control and some we cannot. As riders, we prepare by wearing helmets, gloves and other protective clothing to reduce the impact when we crash. It is great to know that our local governments and organizations are preparing for potential situations with the increase of trail use. We caught up with Captain Matt Perkins and Clark Wilkerson of the Bentonville Fire Department to find out more.

Recently the Bentonville Fire Department (BFD) trained for emergency wilderness extractions. They used the recently opened Coler Preserve Trails for the three-day training. We talked with Clark Wilkerson, a paramedic with the Bentonville Fire Department Bike Team, about the recent training. Check it out!

Tell us about yourself! 

My name is Clark Wilkerson and I’m the division chief training officer for the Bentonville Fire Department (BFD). I am a National Emergency Services Educator, a National Registered Paramedic and a member of the BFD Bike Team. With the growing exciting sport of mountain biking in this area, our department realized the need for specialized training. Special situations require us to be prepared for all types of incidents, under any weather condition, and on any terrain. As a bike medic, it is not as cut and dry as some medical or trauma related calls. We need to be able to get advanced life support care to our patients as quickly as possible and to the location of their injury. That being half the battle, we then need to move our patients to a waiting ambulance or helicopter and then to the closest appropriate hospital to treat these injuries or conditions. That is why I asked NWA Trailblazers, to allow BFD to have 3 days to do specialized training on the Coler Preserve Trails.


How did the recent training go out at Coler?

The training was a useful tool for BFD for 2 reasons: Our firefighters are now all to the level of basic rope rescue technician, which is what the training was intended for, and our existing rescue team members got to sharpen their skills.  The scenarios were straight forward using the concept that a single rider was injured in a location where a normal response, treatment, packaging and extraction would be challenging and difficult.  Our firefighters had to do an initial size-up of the scene and then deploy ropes to ascend to the patient and bring them back to safety. The training was perfect and the firefighters did an excellent job in all disciplines and challenges they were given.

Can you tell us about the BFD Bike Team?

The Bentonville Fire Department has 30 trained EMTs and Paramedics who participate with EMS cycling operations.  The International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) certifies all of our members through a 40-hour training course.  We have provided EMS Bike coverage to the community since 2012.   The department currently possesses six hardtail mountain bikes that carry medical equipment from AEDs to Band-Aids.  The purpose of the team is to provide early medical interventions that may be difficult for traditional ambulance-based EMS to deliver, whether due to a remote location or crowd density.  The request for EMS bike team coverage is on a consistent increase. The team averages more than thirty calls per year and is rising.

How often does the BFD train for these situations?

The BFD trains every day on different areas associated with our duties.  With the rescue team we will train as needed, but have certain disciplines that have to be accomplished yearly to maintain the level of certification we have.  In conjunction with the rescue team, our bike team is always doing standby at events throughout the city. Each member not only has the component of the bike team, but also the rescue aspect.

Are there any other groups training for emergency preparedness?
The BFD has multiple groups or specialties within the department, such as the bike team, high and low angle rescue, along with numerous others.  We are training daily to make sure we are ready to respond to any emergency in any type of situation.  We protect the city of Bentonville and are diligent in our skills to complete the emergency whatever shall arise.