Feeding for hundreds, food provides morale boost at MP97 Fire

CANYONVILLE, Ore.–  The Milepost 97 Fire is reaching new containment levels while holding at just around 13,000 acres. In order to keep crews fighting hard and furthering the control of the fire, food and nutrients are key in the battle against wildfires.

Wildland firefighting is a strenuous job that requires sometimes being on your feet for up to 16 hours. When they come back to camp, it’s important firefighters eat, sleep to then repeat the job the next day.

“You see these guys running up there with big smiles you know they’re so excited to be getting fed variety and something different,” said Nick Stumpf, a food unit leader for Oregon Department of Forestry. “It’s the highlight of their day.”

Six thousand calories a day. That’s the federal requirement of consumption of food for firefighters. With some 1,500 mouths to feed at the Milepost 97 Fire, Stumpf is one of those at the incident command center making sure they meet that quota.

“There’s a large portion of meat and starch, vegetable,” he said. “Then in the tent, we have snacks and fruit and additional salad. So we’re trying to meet all their nutritional needs, the vitamins they need.”

Food must be prepared in commercial kitchens in order to prevent any contaminations. It is also the only way to produce enough food to feed hundreds of hungry mouths.

“You gotta put plates out. We get the rush, the plates are out every two to three seconds,” said Stumpf.

With 12 plus hour shifts at the fire – food is recovery. But it also provides a boost to morale that helps these firefighters to keep on fighting.

“For example, last night, we had macaroni and cheese along with pulled pork and some other things,” said Stumpf. “I saw this girl come up and she did a fist bump when she saw there was macaroni and cheese on the board.”

However, Thursday night’s meal was a special surprise according to Stumpf. With all of the hardwork the firefighters have put in and the rising containment level, 30 percent on Thursday, Stumpf says they are due for a special meal.

“I wish I could tell you. I can tell you last night’s meal,” said Stumpf. “But tonight’s kind of a reward because they’re really getting a lot of progress on the fire.”

Stumpf assures that whatever it is, plenty more firefighters will be doing fist bumps this week.

Fire officials want to remind the community they cannot accept food donations due to health codes and the need to protect firefighters from any potential contaminations. If you would like to support them, you can donate to local food banks. You can also help firefighters that have been injured or killed in a wildfire by donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

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