Fueling the fight
If you want to know what it takes to feed a wildland firefighter, or more precisely, around 1,000 of them, you'll want to Google "national mobile food service contract" and start reading Section C.4 in the 137-page document.
There you'll find ounce-counts broken into proteins, starches and sugars for each meal of the day, which inform at least the type of food that must be served in broad terms like "meat" "bread" or "vegetable."
Caterers bid every five years on the national contracts, and it isn't always the closest unit that's dispatched to a given incident. In the case of the Black Forest Fire, the nearest to the Springs was already tending to the Royal Gorge Fire. So Yellowstone Kelly's out of Billings, Mont., served from last Thursday until equipment failure forced it to be relieved of duty early on Sunday, according to Boise-based, Bureau of Land Management-sponsored Food Unit Leader Linda Holder.
Until Missoula-based Big Sky Mobile Catering could take control Monday night, there was a lag in three meal shifts from Sunday night through Monday lunch.
So who stepped in before the federal agencies, and in the middle?
Our community did.
The Salvation Army's Colorado Springs Emergency Disaster Services unit fed the front line 5,300 meals, 15,000 energy bars and 20,000 drinks between Tuesday and Thursday. Individuals pitched in as well: Indy freelance photographer Bryan Oller shared an image (see p. 3) Thursday of Fountain firemen by a roadside after a 12-hour shift eating McDonald's "brought by a loved one."
And when Yellowstone Kelly's got the (fireman's) boot, Holder reached out to a handful of guys she'd met earlier in the week, who'd stopped by with vehicle-loads of food and offered continued support if she needed it.
Those guys were Greg Howard, Bill Layton and Jason Hann (see opposite page) working together under the McCabe's banner once again.
"She called us around 7 to 8 a.m. Sunday morning," says Howard, "and asked us if we could do 1,200 dinners that night, 1,000 breakfasts and 1,500 lunches [on Monday]. ... We called everybody and anybody: Phantom Canyon, King Soopers, Safeway, Rudy's Barbecue, On the Border, Señor Manuel's, the Club at Flying Horse, Whole Foods ...
"Jason put out the word on Facebook that we needed volunteers, we got 40 people ... there were five or six of us in McCabe's kitchen until 4:30 a.m. [Sunday night] ... it was amazing that we pulled it off."
And just kind of awesomely inspirational.
"They're my heroes," says Holder, who encourages folks to donate to the Salvation Army, Red Cross or Care and Share Food Bank to further help in the food fight.