The Lodi Fire Department first built Station One on West Elm Street in 1966. As far as Battalion Chief Brad Doell knows, the kitchen has not changed since then.
“It’s due for an upgrade, that’s for sure,” Doell said on Thursday.
All of that will change in the coming months.
Cabinets and countertops will be replaced, the flooring will be removed and the concrete underneath will be polished and sealed, new sinks and fixtures will be installed and the kitchen will get a new coat of paint.
After bids close next week, Doell said the project should take roughly six weeks to complete and cost between $60,000 and $70,000.
More than just a place to cook and eat meals together, the kitchen is often where the firefighters hold their morning briefings, other meetings or decompress after responding to a particularly difficult call.
“It’s the central hub, really,” Doell said. “All of the world’s problems are solved around that table.”
The table in question was built in 2013 by Doell and two other firefighters, he said, and weighs approximately 300 pounds. It had to be lifted onto the roof with a crane, brought in through a window and carried down the hallway to the kitchen where it was placed onto legs made from fire sprinkler pipes.
As the firefighters work 48-hours shifts, breakfast on the second day and dinner both nights are often eaten together, family style. They take turns preparing meals, and Firefighter Tony Moore is one of the more skilled cooks.
“Tonight, we’re doing smoked brisket, deep-fried zucchini and baked beans,” Moore said.
Not everybody shares Moore’s talents in the kitchen, however.
“There are guys that enjoy cooking and there are guys that’ll cook if they have to,” Moore said. “Then, there are guys that shouldn’t cook, but want to. Some guys aren’t allowed to use the blenders because they don’t put the lids on them.”
Station One does all of the grocery shopping for the other fire stations — an extensive list sits on the wall — and everybody pays into the “chow fund” to pay for all of it.
“This is all out of our own pockets,” Doell said.
Every shift has its own refrigerator, and firefighters from other stations come by to pick up their own groceries.
“We make a lot of trips to Costco and Sam’s Club,” Moore said.
Giant scrambles with eggs, potatoes and vegetables are common for breakfast, Moore said, while sausage and pepper sandwiches are a favorite for lunch.
Although they try to eat dinner at 5 p.m. every day, it is not uncommon for the meal to be delayed due to their first responsibility: Fighting fires.
“As soon as you get something started, tones go off and we’re gone,” Moore said.
Regardless of what time they eat, dinner can be a rather large affair for the firefighters.
“I want to say the biggest dinner we’ve done was close to 20 people,” Moore said. “Our stoves are big enough, we’ve got the grill space, we just don’t have the space to seat them all.”