John Scarffe, Nederland. Those brave and famous firefighters who battle dangerous blazes to save people, homes and forest lands have to eat. Even if they bring their lunch box, that will be gone in a day, and these guys work days on end to control huge fires.
Where do they get food to sustain them? Just ask the former owner of Nederland’s Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery, Cori Boogaard. She spent all summer catering to fire respondents all across the western United States.
After she sold Wild Mountain, Boogaard asked herself, “What do I do now?” She said she would figure something out.
Then, in the summer of 2016, the Cold Springs Fire burned above Nederland and down Boulder Canyon. Boogaard was available to help cater food to the firefighters and personnel involved in fighting the fire.
The company catering for the firefighters, NuWay Catering, helped the community, Boogaard said, and she got to know company staff. The Reed family runs the company, and six or seven family members go to the fires and serve food every year.
NuWay Catering is one of the first companies to provide food to the U.S. Forest Service, hot shots, smokejumpers, and the National Guard in fire situations and is one of 26 in operation. The Grandfather, Harry Reed, is the founder of NuWay and an amazing cook, Boogaard said, and after her experience with the Cold Springs Fire, they said, “Why don’t you come and work with us for the summer catering forest fires?”
Boogaard’s daughter was traveling to Amsterdam and Africa, so while she was doing her thing, Cori agreed to start working for the company in May. She tended the needs of hungry and tired personnel fighting forest fires in five different camps that summer.
Boogaard spent 26 days in Soda Springs and 26 days in Winthrop, Washington, as well as time in Lame Deer, Montana. They would work 14 to 16 hour days preparing breakfast starting at 4 a.m. and work preparing and serving dinner until 11 p.m.
NuWay had five semi-trailer trucks they pulled to each site where firefighters were needed. Kitchens were installed in each truck, and they would set up tents for the salad bar and coffee with seating in the swamp-cooled big top tent.
They had big pallets of food to move around. At each fire-fighting site, the Forest Service would set up a high security government facility with shared showers, port-a-potties and potable water, Boogaard said.
The company needs to provide 6,000 calories a day for the hard-working firefighters, Boogaard said. When firefighters were caught on the line of fire and needed food, they would go on spike and take them the food and water they needed to continue fighting the fire.
They would prepare 800 bags for lunch each day. In Soda Spring, Wyoming, the fire burned 65,000 acres. She worked at the salad bar preparing fresh vegetables and prepared the dinner menu each night.
“People were exhausted all of the time from digging ditches or sleeping on the front of the line,” Boogaard said. “It was high stress so we were trying to lighten up the mood.”
Boogaard heard one firefighter say to another, “I would have cried for you today if you would have died.” A burning tree fell, and the firefighter jumped back into a crevasse for safety.
“I was there to do a job and knew what my role was,” Boogaard said. “It’s hard to lose a ranch, cattle, home and business all in one day. How many structures were lost? In Washington how many apple orchards? It’s directly affecting our food sources for the United States.”
After finishing the summer catering to firefighters, Boogaard was exhausted. “I needed a whole week to rest and recuperate,” she said. “This experience made me appreciate all of the men and women who risk their lives to fight fires and the community in which we live.”
Upon returning to Nederland, Boogaard now is employed as a chef at A Spice of Life catering and Eldora Mountain Resort.