Mobile kitchens shuttered in West Country for safety reasons

Mobile kitchens serving firefighters west of Nordegg have been replaced after Alberta Health Services shut them down for safety reasons in mid-July.

Mobile kitchens serving firefighters west of Nordegg have been replaced after Alberta Health Services shut them down for safety reasons in mid-July.

Outland Resources Inc., under a contract with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, had set up two mobile kitchens at the Spreading Creek wildfire to provide meals for the men and women working on the blaze.

Discovered on July 3, the Spreading Creek fire now covers 16,400 acres of land and is classified as being held, wildfire information officer Geoffrey Driscoll said on Monday.

A former firefighter with five years of experience on wildfires in Oregon, Driscoll said on Sunday that crew members are focused on three things: Work, eat and sleep. Along with the massive amount of water they need to keep hydrated during the day, crew members need 4,500 calories of food intake to replace the energy they expend on the fires.

It’s a highly regimented lifestyle, with your body growing accustomed to being fed at specific times of the day, said Driscoll.

He heartily agreed with the suggestion that every man and woman returning to camp at dinner time is hungry enough to eat the hind end of a grizzly bear.

So there was a scramble on July 19, when AHS executive officer Kelly Bauer gave a verbal order that the two mobile kitchens were found to have breached safety standards and were ordered to shut down. In a written order issued three days later, Bauer described various infractions involving the two units.

Infractions in one unit including a lack of running water and inadequate facilities for cold storage.

The other kitchen was shut for a lack of hot running water; a malfunction in its cooler; improper storage of equipment and utensils; improper storage in the refrigerator unit; dirty counters, walls and floors; poor ventilation and the lack of a plumbed handwash unit for kitchen staff.

Doug Finnaman, southern region representative for Outland, said crews were fed at a nearby resort while his company dealt with the shutdown. The two units, which look like oversized food trucks, had been purchased recently from a company that contracts to movie sets and were operated by a third party.

The two units were removed from the site and replaced with an industrial style mobile kitchen of the type that is normally used in remote work camps at oil and gas sites.

Finnaman said he offered to buy meals for the fire crew’s 84 firefighters while the replacement was being set up. However, those costs were covered by ESRD.

He and Driscoll confirmed on Monday that all food services have been restored for the Spreading Creek fire crew.

Fire base kitchen contracts are rewarded in fall and rotated among the successful bidders, said Driscoll.

Drinking water is provided under a separate contract, he said.

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