A thick stew with chunks of roast on top, carrots, peppers, onions and tomatoes in bubbles of savory sauce in a pot as big as a hubcap. Soon the cover comes off the white rice, fluffy like a down pillow. Slices of golden cornbread – jalapeño-cheddar and plain – appear.
“It’s time for the din!” Say the blessing and jump in, ”said Lt. Seth James, the cook of the evening at Greenville City Fire Department Station 1 on Verdae Boulevard.
James cooks most nights for B Platoon, an eight-man crew among the GCFD 159 people. In seven stations, firefighters work 24 hours a day, 48 hours without. When they are in the service of the public, they do not serve themselves; when the bell rings, it’s not a call to dinner. This year, the B peloton is celebrating Christmas.
All of the first responders here are working to make this house their home. They try to share breakfast and aim for supper at 5:30 pm Lunch is always on the move.
Tonight, Captain Adam DeVore, who replaces the Battalion Commander, smiles as he watches the firefighters around the kitchen.
“That’s one of the biggest parts of it – lets you decompress. For the guys here it’s often nonstop, so you can sit and have a meal together, blow off steam, cut out and laugh, ”he says.
Firefighter Kyle Flickinger puts it this way: “You could almost say this is a sacred time for us. “
The men line up to help themselves, then gather around a long wooden table. They dig, don’t talk much.
“If it’s bad, we’ll talk,” James said. “If it’s good, we’re just eating.”
The alarm bells still haven’t sounded.
“I’m surprised we’re not at 85 right now,” he said.
Open in 2019, Station 1 blankets the I-85/385 footbridge and the hairiest stretches of Woodruff Road. The devastation usually begins around supper time, according to firefighters.
The house has answered some 1,400 calls so far this year, says James. Most are vehicle accidents (“cell phones, almost always,” he says), as well as medical emergencies, fire and code issues. They remember a recent three hour period in which they pulled four people out of three cars.
Still no bell. The relief is palpable.
A big batch of chocolate chip, pumpkin and spice cookies is in the oven, thanks to fire supervisor Jake Mantooth, who previously cut the raw jalapeños for cornbread.
That’s when the guys joked about the great buttermilk disaster.
“Buttermilk isn’t bad, it’s bad already,” James told Mantooth.
“When you pour it, there shouldn’t be any lumps, I’m sorry,” says his deputy.
On the grocery side, a passage to the empty store at the station. No solo trips for a bag of crisps.
“You have to really think through your ideas, what you want,” says Mantooth.
Amidst constant calls, they shop every day. “We’re already out,” says Flickinger, summing up the group reflection. “Let’s do it all at once, instead of doing three, four, five back and forths all day. “
Greenville firefighters must buy their own food. B Platoon crew members contribute $ 5 per meal to the “kitten”. A typical supper costs $ 40 for eight men. Because breakfasts cost between $ 15 and $ 20, the cat is growing. In the winter, when the grill is idling on the patio, chili and stews cost less than usual, so the balance increases as well. Over time, they can splurge on a steak dinner.
They rarely eat out, unless their day is so exhausting. Then they can grab some to take out at the Olive Garden corner.
“We’re also careful with what we cook,” says James, who learned from his grandmother and doesn’t use any recipes. “We try to be careful of what’s on sale, it’s a key factor in what we cook every day.”
When the price of chicken drops to 69 cents a pound, he says, they’ll buy four or five whole birds and roast them: one night, smoked chicken and two sides, then a batch of jambalaya or bog, a favorite of the House. , “like jambalaya, but less Cajun,” says James. What remains becomes a chicken salad.
They shop at the Food Lion on nearby Boulevard Verdae, where Kali Skulos works in customer service. She sees what they’re buying – reminds her of her best friend, a firefighter in her hometown of Pittsburgh.
“They arrive quickly because you never know if they’re going to get a call. So they have to get what they can, ”she said. “A number of times they had to leave a few orders and come back to pick them up, but that’s part of their job. “
They’ll be running for a meat and potato spread, fixin tacos or a pasta supper, she says. When the alarms go off, so do they and the store stores their groceries.
“They deserve to be treated like gold,” Skulos says. “They’re just phenomenal guys, everyday guys. They break their buttocks. They do what they need to do and we love them.
As for the quality of the food at “Chez Verdae”, you have to ask firefighter Cedric Bennett. The 33-year-old GFCD veteran known as “C” may have a soft voice, but as an inside food critic his vote is the only one that matters.
What about tonight’s meal? “Fairly good,” he said.
“I take it!” Mantooth said, raising his arms.
The complete meal lasts about 15 minutes. The guys who don’t cook do the dishes. “C” surreptitiously shows a visitor his smartphone, filled with dozens of images – all of food from the fire station.
“That’s why I can’t get a six-pack anymore,” he says. Then, whispering as if he doesn’t want to betray his penchant for tonight’s supper, he brings up the idea of a food truck:
“That’s what we think we’re doing – I was, anyway. These guys have missed their calling if they don’t go ahead with their cooking thing. They can cook, honestly.
Give a taste of home at home
Station 1 veterans will tell you that each house cultivates its own culture. Many speak with emotion, for example, of the reconstructed Station 3 at East Faris Road and Augusta Street.
Fire supervisor Jake Mantooth mentions a neighborhood visitor who would regularly stop to stock the refrigerator with $ 80 worth of groceries, and three families who would serve a full Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation – then do all the cleaning.
Earlier today, a friend of the firefighters dropped off cookies and donuts. In other words, as much as they value “Thank you for your service”, guys especially value the community.
If you want to bring a bit of home from home for the holidays, here are the fire stations in the department:
- Station 1 – Gare Verdae, 825 boul. Verdae.
- Station 2 – West End Station, 125 North Leach St.
- Station 3 – Augusta Bus Station, 2101 Augusta St.
- Station 4 – Stone Avenue Station, 880 East Stone Ave.
- Station 5 – Pleasantburg Station, 15 Waite St.
- Station 6 – Eastside Station, 14 Pelham Road
- Station 7 – North main station, 801, chemin Rutherford
To learn more about how to compliment a firefighter or, better yet, how to serve up treats, give, say, a Food Lion gift card or bring good news, visit the The GFCD “I want…” web page
Source: City of Greenville Fire Department.