The Fort Wayne firefighters who worked the Thanksgiving shift at Station 1 started cooking and baking long before the planned meal time of 5 p.m.
Tony Jennings said it took about six hours to bake his contribution to the holiday feast – a carrot cake with white frosting. He was one of the four firefighters at the station on “engine,” which means he has to go out on every call.
Four firefighters were on “truck,” so they only had to go out on calls requiring the full fire truck that has a large ladder on top. Brian Kidd said he expected a call that would require at least half of the crew to respond right after they took the first bites of dinner.
When asked who would later wash the dishes, all eight firefighter spoke up and raised their hands.
“We joke that the engine doesn’t do dishes,” Jennings said.
The crew had training and work to do earlier in the 24-hour shift that started at 7 a.m., but Jennings said they try to finish a little earlier than usual on holidays. The same firefighters will work the same shift on Christmas this year.
The only time the whole on-shift crew is together at the station is during meal times – breakfast and dinner. Sitting down for a traditional home-cooked dinner is common at the station, but it’s usually smaller than holiday meals.
Jason Green said the down time after dinner is to kick back and relax – unless there’s an emergency call.
“The fire department is family-oriented anyway,” Green said. “I mean, you live a third of your life with these guys, and it’s important to have that – I don’t know what to call it – to have that bonding time with each other.”
Jennings agreed that is part of the culture at the fire department.
“We even call it family time when we are sitting at the table and joking around,” he said. “After we eat, it’s family time.”
Lt. Tim Schweitzer made a large spiral ham for the main course.
About 5 p.m., half of the long table was filled with food while the other was set with ceramic plates and silverware. Schweitzer said a lot of the dishes in the station kitchen are secondhand from the firefighters’ families.
The meal included sweet potato casserole, homemade mashed potatoes, a corn bake, and Hawaiian rolls. The firefighters joked about how the meal would likely be inedible since they were the chefs.
Much of it was homemade, aside from the store-bought pies Green contributed. His fellow firefighters wouldn’t let him forget it.
Tyler Meehan joined Station 1 less than a month ago. On Thanksgiving, he said he would likely nap after watching football if he were at home.
Instead, he made macaroni and cheese to share with the crew. When he carried in the 9-inch square pan, one firefighter asked if it was only for two people while another asked where the rest of the dish was. Another quipped it was a single-serving pan.
Meehan stopped and stared at his co-workers as he appeared to be in disbelief. After a moment, a smile spread across his face.
The only thing the crew can plan on leading up to a big meal is that the day will be unpredictable, Schweitzer said. They always plan on dinner at 5 p.m., but Jennings said it’s been pushed back to as late as 8:30 p.m.
Even though they had items to prepare a holiday feast in 2020, Kidd said the crew ended up picking up food after duty called them to a house fire.
It’s all part of the job, Schweitzer said.
“There are no calm days,” he said.