I grew up in Philadelphia where firefighters are municipal employees. In fact, our nearest fire house was right across the street from my junior high school. Every Wednesday at noon, the air raid horn was blown. Remember, this was the 1970’s when the Cold War was still fairly recent. If you had a class on that side of the building, all talking came to a halt for that minute.
So when I first moved out to the ‘burbs, I was a bit taken aback to learn that my local firehouse was a volunteer operation. “Volunteers? Called via a siren??”
I have since learned that most firehouses in the United States are volunteer-run, and run very well. It is a very special person who volunteers to protect and help their community in this way, and my appreciation for him or her is great.
Living in Bucks County, though, I have come to appreciate our local fire companies for something else — their food (come on, you knew where I was going with this). I am stating here in print that it is one of our long-term goals to sample every firehouse breakfast in Bucks County. Why? Because, as the saying goes, it’s there. Consider it our public service.
A firehouse breakfast every month
Some fire companies do a breakfast once or twice a year. Some do it four times a year. The Community Fire Company #1, Station 42, in Riegelsville, does it EVERY MONTH. And they have done so for over twenty years. This we had to check out.
It was a warm August Sunday when we arrived in Riegelsville. If you’ve never been to a firehouse breakfast, here’s how it typically works.
Tables and chairs are set up in the actual firehouse (they move the engines outside). You usually pay up front, sit down at a clean table setting, and wait for a friendly face to appear with a pot of coffee.
Breakfast – eggs, pancakes, meat, toast, etc. – is served to you at the table shortly after that. The firefighters are often the ones in the kitchen turning out the hotcakes, with the Auxiliary ladies serving up.
The atmosphere is boisterous and friendly, with families, seniors and everything in between. Strangers talk to each other and become new friends. This city girl was charmed the first time I went to one here in Wycombe.
It’s more like a diner that operates once a month.
The Riegelsville breakfast works a little differently, but then, they’ve got the experience. Instead of paying one set price up front, we were directed to sit down and fill out a simple paper menu at our seats with choices of eggs (circle how you want them), three kinds of meat (ham, sausage or scrapple), hotcakes, French toast, creamed beef, potatoes, toast, juice, and hot beverages (coffee, tea, hot chocolate). It’s more like a diner that operates once a month.
Seeing as we had an obligation to sample as much as we could, Mark, our friend, Peter, and I all ordered the Firefighters Special: 2 eggs, 2 hotcakes, 1 slice of ham, 2 pieces of sausage, potatoes and toast. Price? $8. And that’s the most expensive dish on the menu. Oh, and Peter also got the French toast. Good man.
I wanted to find out more about the Riegelsville firehouse and its meals (they do dinners too), and Diana Cox, president of the Auxiliary, was good enough to sit down and chat with us. She filled in some of the details and told us about the important role the breakfasts and dinners play in helping to pay for engine trucks, repairs and other firehouse improvements. [Update: welcome Leanne Hissim, new Ladies Auxiliary president]
As for sources, all their eggs come from Rick’s Egg Farm in Kintersville. Meat comes from R&R Provisions in Easton. And all produce comes from Trauger’s Farm, also in Kintersville.
Diners come from as far as Warminster and Souderton, or folks just passing by on 611 who see the sign and drive up the hill. During the summer months, they serve 300 to 400 people. In the fall and winter, they get over 400, with almost 500 around Christmas. And they do this from 8 am to noon on the third Sunday of every month.
Ah, but the dinners. It began innocently with a spaghetti dinner a few years back, says Diana. Now they are doing them almost every month.
October will be Pork and Sauerkraut. May is their now famous Roast Beef Dinner with fresh local asparagus. Lent brings a Fish Fry. Spaghetti Dinner in June.
The baked goods are all homemade and donated by community members. The stuffing and potatoes are real, says Diana, horrified when people suggest otherwise.
And the vegetables are all fresh and local. In fact, the day after we spoke was going to be corn blanching day for the Auxiliary, to freeze and use for the rest of the year during the dinners.
The Community Fire Company #1, Station 42
333 Delaware Avenue