BBQ, Smoking, & Grilling

Postcards from Operation BBQ Relief Carr Fire Deployment

Melanie Wong | Sep 23, 201810:30 PM     10

Last month I deployed to Redding, California for a week as a volunteer with Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) supplying hot meals to evacuees and first responders. I bet that many of you in the Chowhound community would be well-suited for OBR volunteer duties too and would find it equally rewarding. So I'm sharing some scenes from camp to let you know what it was like.

If you have any interest in doing this kind of work when disaster strikes, I encourage you to sign up now so that you're in the bank of potential volunteers to be contacted when something happens close to home. The easiest way to sign up is to download the OBR app to your smartphone and register via the mobile app. Or you can use the volunteer link included here.

For those of you who like me call California home, earthquakes have been a way of life. Now it seems that wildfires are part of our new normal too. There's been talk in OBR of having some equipment based on the West Coast for faster response. We will need a strike team of volunteers to go along with that. Please join our ranks!

This was the scene when I arrived at Shasta College, the host for OBR's mobile kitchen. Volunteers were rubbing down the pork loins to load them into the cookers. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri departed to set up camp at the Mendocino Complex Fire just before I arrived, so I did not get to meet him.

The same pork loins now fully cooked, sliced, and portioned into 50-serving aluminum trays.

That day's pork cook was served with tomato sauce made by a local restaurant.

That evening OBR's Command Center trailer arrived from Kansas City. The command center is a complete communication center, office space, and dry pantry storage. It was accompanied by a reefer trailer full of frozen meat ready to be cooked.

Even more impressive was the Boss Hog, a trailer with FIVE enormous Ole Hickory cookers, electrical generators, and a supply of propane and wood.

One day we served Sicilian sausage handmade by Furnari Sausage Company of Redding. Though the Furnari family's own house was lost in the fire, they helped their community with this donation. Before leaving town, I went to the store to stock up on sausage. It's excellent.

Our head pitmaster Paul unloading smoked pork from the pits, after temping each one.

Buffalo choppers made short work of tons of smoked pork.

Some of our volunteer crew packing trays with chopped pork.

This is my own handwriting to label the contents of a tray. I tried to send some extra love along with the hot meals to the field.

Depending on the designated time of pick-up or delivery, the bulk food trays were kept warm in a dialed-down cooker or in cambros to maintain safe storage and serving temperature.

These are the handcarry-size of cambros used by the Salvation Army delivery team to keep meals warm en route to first responders and evacuees.

Pallets-worth of supplies, nonperishable food and dry goods were stored in this pantry tent.

We used forklifts to move pallets of meals and supplies around camp.

It still blows me away to think about the massive volume of hot meals that a relatively small team of volunteers could crank out. We were using forty-pound quantities of rub!

The map on the side of the Command Center trailer shows all the parts of the country where OBR has deployed during natural disasters.

A tray of chopped pork topped with mango pico de gallo salsa.

One the side dishes, smoked corn with roast potatoes, we prepped in coordination with World Central Kitchen, Jose Andres' charitable organization.

OBR pitmaster Paul coordinating volumes with World Central Kitchen's Chef Jason.

This is Stan Hays, co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief. I snuck up behind him to snap a photo of the OBR tattoos on his calves. Yes, he is pretty badass.

For my individual contribution to the team effort, I was singled out and awarded an OBR challenge coin.

Looking back now, I have to admit that it's pretty remarkable what can be accomplished when you want to get the T-shirt. Besides the T-shirt, I also got the ID bracelet and a whole lot more experience in emergency food relief.

Volunteer Operation BBQ Relief

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