MH First Responders: Canteen Crew feeds firefighters during blazes

June 12, 2015
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While Boston Fire Department (BFD) firefighters are out battling the flames, the all-volunteer Canteen Crew are right behind them, making sure they stay hydrated and fed.

The Boston Sparks Association, a private nonprofit that also operates the Boston Fire Museum on Congress Street, supports not only BFD, but also firefighters in neighboring cities, eight-year volunteer Thomas Leone told the Gazette.

“We take care of first responders. We make sure the guys are well-hydrated,” Leone said.

That includes providing drinking water, Gatorade, misting fans and wet towels. For long-lasting action, the crew also provides snacks and even pizzas and burgers.

“We want them energized and hydrated,” he said.

“They’re a wonderful organization,” BFD spokesperson Steve MacDonald told the Gazette last week. “We have a good relationship with them.”

Leone—who once was a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey—joined the Canteen Crew when he moved to Boston, and was too old to join the BFD.

“This was the next best thing,” he said.

He told the Gazette that, depending on the fire, the BFD can be outside in blazing temperatures for any from a couple of hours to all day.

The manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in Watertown in 2013 took 15 hours, he remembered. He was there, providing for the first responders.

Many times, Leone explained, BFD doesn’t even have to page the Canteen Crew. Many Crew members monitor BFD frequencies and start prepping the two Canteen vehicles, known as A-10 and A-11, as soon as a fire alarm is sounded. That way, if and when the fire progresses to more alarms, the Crew is already on its way to the scene.

The Sparks Foundation is totally funded by donations—including a “good-sized” yearly donation from the Fire Fighters Union, MacDonald said—and membership dues, Leone said.

Boston Sparks Association’s website is bostonsparks.com.