Paramedic, EMT bike team: First year at Fiesta a success

Balloon fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE)- Massive Balloon Fiesta crowds can make it tough for first responders to reach patients in the park during emergencies. It’s why this year Albuquerque Ambulance Service has a different kind of crew manning the parking lots.

Balloon Fiesta isn’t over yet, but these cyclists are already calling it a success.

“A few of them have just said, ‘Wow, we’re so thankful that you’re here. We feel a little bit more comfortable knowing that there’s more medical services out here,” Albuquerque Ambulance Service Paramedic Jeff Kinney talked about the feedback he’s gotten from patients.

Thousands gather in Balloon Fiesta Park every year for the International Balloon Fiesta but this is the first year emergency medical responders have taken to their bikes to treat people in all of the park’s parking lots.

“Bicycle teams can maneuver through crowds much quicker and can make it to the patient, stabilize, treat until the ambulance can actually get there,” said Kinney.

Kinney said accessing terrain ambulances cannot translates into quicker response times.

From dehydration to sprained ankles and shortness of breath, these cyclists have the tools to handle it.

“Some of the gear that we carry is an AED- automated external defibrillator- and we use this in situations when patients are in sudden cardiac arrest,” Kinney said. “We also carry just basic vital signs from blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, we can check people’s blood sugars.”

They travel in pairs to handle all the gear, but it’s not easy.

“We do different training so that they are prepared to be able to move this equipment around on the bike,” Kinney explained.

He said, before Fiesta even started, these EMT’s and paramedics rode around the park to get used to the terrain and figure out the best routes- like staying on the high ground until an emergency and riding down the hills.

“We just set ourselves up for success. We just put ourselves in a place where it’s easier to respond and faster to respond,” said Kinney.

With a few successful calls under their belt at Balloon Fiesta, they’re already setting their sites on next year.

“Even if we only had one patient out in the parking lot, it made the difference to that one patient that we were able to get there faster and help them out,” explained Kinney.

The Albuquerque Ambulance Service started the bike team in 2012 in response to the Gathering of Nations event at The Pit. Albuquerque Fire Department is in charge of responding to medical emergencies on the field during Balloon Fiesta. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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