the latest

« Food

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled... Firefighting Gear?

Firehouse Subs has a unique plan to save the environment and your house
Kenny Pailes, 10:35am, Fri. Feb. 1, 2013
The next time you're visiting one of the greater Austin area's eight Firehouse Subs shops, do our local firefighters a solid and order pickles. Then order some more. Every week, each restaurant goes through about six 5-gallon buckets of kosher dills. When those pails are empty, the eateries turn their waste into welfare with a simple but effective plan.

Pickle buckets: is there anything they can't do?
Photo by Kenny Pailes
First, Firehouse Subs diverts their briny plastic away from landfills by selling the used buckets to a surprisingly eager public for just $2 a piece. Then, the restaurant's parent corporation combines 100% of the proceeds from those bucket sales and combines them with cash donations (collected from special canisters, featured prominently in every store). The result is the multi-million dollar Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which funds grants to fire departments around the nation.

This week, the Foundation presented the Cedar Park Fire Department (CPFD) with a grant of $20,000 worth of wildland firefighting gear. The grant was matched by the City of Cedar Park, allowing the fire department to purchase 60 sets of the specialized clothing.

According to CPFD Chief James Mallinger, the impetus for the department's request for the grant was 2011's Bastrop County Complex Fire. Like most other area agencies, CPFD sent personnel and equipment to help fight that wildfire, the most destructive of its kind in Texas history. Working in the already brutal Labor Day heat, Cedar Park firefighters faced an extra challenge from the very equipment designed to protect them. At that time, CPFD's wildfire gear was worn in two layers, with special wildland-specific shirts and pants on top of normal station uniforms. While this double dose of shielding protected crews from being singed by flames, it also prevented their bodies from shedding heat, thus subjecting them to a significant risk of heat exhaustion.

The department's new yellow shirts and green pants, however, are designed to be worn as a stand alone set of garments. This lighter ensemble will provide the same or better flame protection that the old gear did, but with less weight and fewer layers. CPFD firefighters will now be able to work for longer periods over greater expanses of terrain with less risk of suffering from a heat stress injury.

Engineer Kory Woolverton, Lieutenant Nathan Smith, and Firefighter Erik Villanueva (l-r) of CPFD Station 2 show off their new gear
Photo by Kenny Pailes
Given the high costs of specialized wildfire fighting equipment and our region's seemingly endless current drought, grants like this provide an immediate and significant benefit for the community. Mary McCafferty, Grants Coordinator for the City of Cedar Park agreed. She explained, "since Firehouse Subs has a dedicated public safety foundation, their grants tend to be a bit larger than the community support we get from other local businesses, and we really appreciate that."

McCafferty and Firehouse Subs Area Representative Bill Krassner pointed out that this is actually the second grant from the sandwich shop's Foundation to the Cedar Park Fire Department. In 2006, another pickle bucket-funded grant provided firefighters with a handheld thermal imaging camera (used during emergencies to find hidden fires and victims that are not visible to the naked eye) and a public education trailer (a primary tool in efforts to teach area school children how to prevent and react to emergencies).

All told, public safety agencies in Austin, Cedar Park, and Georgetown have received over $85,000 in similar grants from the Foundation. Krassner beamed, "It's all part of our commitment to our community, and we're proud to do it."

Laura Phillips and Bill Krassner of Firehouse Subs lead a modern day bucket brigade
Photo by Kenny Pailes
Readers can buy their own clean, used, 5-gallon red bucket complete with lid and handle for $2 at any Firehouse Subs store. A friendly tip from local franchisee Laura Phillips, though: call ahead, because apparently these babies are highly coveted by local container enthusiasts. "We get calls every day. They're hard for us to keep on hand!"

Firehouse Subs

1465 E. Whitestone Blvd, Cedar Park, TX, 259-9696

Mon.-Sun., 10:30am-9:00pm

See http://www.firehousesubs.com for other area locations

Next in Food: Farmers Market Report: February 2-3 »