Feeding some 1000 people is no easy task. Once the Blue Creek fire was upgraded to a Type 2 Incident, the number of firefighters and support personnel grew exponentially. It was also when state and federal funding and contracts took over the support services to the Fire Camp.
Heretofore, all the meals and snacks for the 400 +/-firefighters and support staff were supplied by Country Gentlemen catering out of Kennewick along with the generosity of local citizen volunteers. But as of Thursday evening, Larch Camp Kitchens is cookin' up the meals at Fire Camp.
Larch Camp Kitchens is a minimum custody work program for inmates from Larch Corrections Center near Vancouver, WA.*
In the span of 24 hours from my Wednesday visit to Fire Camp, Larch Camp Kitchens had arrived and set up their system of multiple refrigerated semi-trucks and commercial kitchens. Separate semis hold meats, vegetables and fruits, and dairy.
According to USDA guidelines, firefighters are guaranteed at least 6,000 calories a day. That's a lot of food to store and prepare.
The lines may be empty now, but as the night crew awakens and the day crew returns to camp, here's where they will queue up to be fed.
According to the uniformed guard who served as my guide and question answer-er, firefighters will be served a dinner of steak with all the fixin's including potatoes, vegetables, salad, drinks, and dessert in a buffet setting with seating at large tables under big shady tents. Dinner service begins at 16:00 hours and runs until the last firefighter has been fed.
Breakfasts will include a variety of meats, eggs, fruit, cereals and beverages.
As for lunch, bag lunches are prepared by youths from Naselle Youth Camp, a medium security facility of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.* Firefighters carry their own lunches, snacks and drinks with them in their line pack.
According to the owner, a big burly sawyer from ASP, his line pack weighs about 40-45 lbs. and contains all the supplies he needs for 12 hours on the job including an extra chain saw chain. Having carried a 40-pound pack myself when my goal was basically to walk from point A to point B, these firefighters have to bend, stoop, reach, grapple, dig--in other words WORK--while wearing a loaded pack.
* Because of security reasons, there are no photos of the workers from these facilities.
ADDENDUM: BLUE CREEK FIRE UPDATE as of July 23 at 18:45
approximately 1000 personnel
2 aircraft tankers
17 20-person hand crews
We are awaiting arrival of three Type 1 hotshot crews to join the Type 2 Team (Incidents are categorized by five types based on complexity. Type 5 incidents are the least complex and Type 1 are the most complex.)