Fueling the hungry firefighter

Journal/Sam Green

Firefighters line up for supper Thursday night at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds where the Incident Command Center is located.

By Michael Maresh Journal staff writer

The Montezuma County Fairgrounds is currently the home to more than 600 firefighting personnel who are battling the Weber Fire near Mancos. Feeding al those firefighters is a big challenge.

Everyday at 5 p.m., after spending hour after sweltering hour on the fire line for the entire day, firefighters make the 15-mile trip to the fairgrounds to grab a shower and line up for dinner.

Firefighters have set up tents all around the fairgrounds. Others are sleeping on floors and many are sleeping in their vehicles, said Eric La Price, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

Price also said numerous portable showers, sinks and toilets have been set up at the fairgrounds for what has become a small city of Weber Fire firefighters.

The most daunting task remains feeding the 600 firefighters on a daily basis.

Narvery Tate, food unit leader, said 558 meals are served three times a day to the personnel fighting the Weber Fire. More than 1,800 meals are prepared every day.

The meals are prepared with two things in mind: Taste and nourishment. After a long, hard day on the fire lines, a big calorie meal is needed to keep firefighterís energy up.

Most meals are more than 2,000 calories.

Hardy breakfasts, massive dinner portions of pork chops ó two-inches thick, veggies and the works. And for dessert on this day, pecan pie.

Tate said he always prepares more meals than he thinks he will need just to be careful. He doesnít want to leave any hard-working firefighter without a meal. He has designed a calendar to tell the firefighters what will be on the menu for breakfast and dinner.

Tate said estimating the number of people who were served meals during the first few days of the fire was difficult because new crews of firefighters were showing up all the time. Tate said the number has seemed to stabilize during the past few days.

Tate admitted that the kitchen, which gets its food from a nearby wholesaler, ran out of food the first few nights.

He said the food that is delivered is based on his count that he provides to the wholesaler.

Breakfast at the makeshift camp is served from 5 to 8 a.m., while dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m.

He said these times can be adjusted, though the kitchen will shut down once there is no one eating after these times for breakfast or dinner end unless they are informed a late crew is coming in.

For lunch, fire crew leaders make the trip to the fairgrounds to pick up sack lunches to take back with them to firefighters.

Tate said while firefighting personnel do not have to eat the food that is prepared at the fairgrounds, they are encouraged to do so.

ďSince we have a contractor here on site, firefighters are suppose to eat here,Ē Tate said, and added the meals served at fairgrounds are free, while a meal off site would have to be paid out of pocket by the firefighter.

Houstonís Trailís End Catering provides the meals at this center.

Tate also said that the public occasionally will bring in food items like cakes and cookies to show their appreciation for the work the firefighters are doing, but added itís not encouraged.

Fighting fires isnít an easy job. And neither is keeping them feed as the fire continues to smolder.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com

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