Firefighters work up an appetite |

Firefighters work up an appetite

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

What do you get after fighting a gritty wildland fire? A rack of ribs, a Gatorade and a shower.

“They’re hungry. They’re out there for 16 hours,” said Judy Yandoh, food unit supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service. “A typical meal for them is about 4,000 calories. It’s not something you or I would want to eat.”

Home for the more than 650 firefighters battling the Gondola Fire is now the California Lodge at Heavenly Ski Resort.

Sleeping tents are set up in the parking lot near the tram. The dining area, which consists of long fold-out tables and metal chairs, is set up closer to the lodge above rows of parked red fire engines.

Ribs were on the menu for dinner Thursday night. The Forest Service ordered 1,800 racks of them, along with 1,800 ears of corn and 75 watermelons. It’s enough to feed about 1,500 people — a combination of firefighters, managers and support staff.

Roger Burditt, fire specialist at Smart & Final food service, described Thursday’s meal as a medium-sized job. At last summer’s Star Fire, which lasted about three weeks, Burditt served 2,500 people a day.

Dinners began at 6 p.m. and lasted until about 10:30 p.m. to accommodate the firefighters, who arrived in waves as their shifts end.

Burditt guessed he’d be serving food at Heavenly for about seven days, depending on how the weather affects the fire.

How much does such an endeavor cost? Yandoh didn’t say.

“The two most important things for firefighters are food and showers,” she said.

“The logistical side of things is often overlooked, but it’s so critical to the morale and well being (of the firefighters). We try and be as prudent about how much money is spent. It’s not an open checkbook.”

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