West Jordan Fire takes second place at chili cook-off
West Jordan Fire Chief Marc McElreath hands a small cup of chili to a customer at the Fourth Annual Utah Firefighter Chili Cook-off. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)
By Tori La Rue | firstname.lastname@example.org
West Jordan, Utah - Members of the West Jordan Fire Department gathered at the South Towne Mall in Sandy on Sept. 24 hoping to secure first place in the fourth annual Utah Firefighter Chili Cook-off for the second year in a row.
Nearly 15 fire departments from across the state competed in the cook-off, a fundraiser for the University of Utah Health Care’s Burn Camp. Children, teen and adult burn injury survivors are invited to the camp to socialize with other people in similar circumstances and learn about healing from professional nurses, physical therapists and firefighters.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re all winning as soon as people buy tickets for chili,” said Jack Gray, a West Jordan resident representing the Ogden City Fire Department. “We’re really here for the kids who will benefit from camp.”
About 5,000 people attended the cook-off, and together the departments raised $12,528 for the Burn Camp, with South Davis Fire Department raising the most at $2,677, West Jordan coming in second at $1,711 and Unified Fire Authority third at $1,304.
West Jordan took second place two more times, falling to South Davis again for the people’s choice chili and taking second in booth design behind American Fork Fire Department. West Jordan’s booth included a nearly 10-foot tall fake fire hydrant, and American Fork’s booth was wooden and decorated like an old-West saloon.
“Well, it would be great to win again, but from last year to this year, you have departments who have stepped up their booth and other departments who have made changes to their chili,” West Jordan Fire Chief Marc McElreath said about the competition, adding that his department will make changes next year.
Kent Warner, a firefighter and paramedic on West Jordan’s C platoon, said he was “volun-told” to make the chili for the competition after he made a chili for his co-workers that they liked. The department won the 2015 Utah Firefighter Chili Cook-off using Warner’s recipe.
Warner changed the recipe this year by substituting smoked pulled pork for steak and reducing the spiciness of the chili. Judges commented that they missed the spiciness, so Warner said he plans to add some heat to the West Jordan chili for the 2017 event.
Many departments bring the same chili each year. Unified Fire West Valley brings a red chili and a chili verde, and Unified Fire offers a cashew chicken chili and vegetarian cashew quinoa chili each year.
Shelby Williams, event participant who came to support her brother who works for the West Valley Fire Department, said, setting all bias aside, the West Valley’s chili verde chili was her favorite. She said thought they should have won. Overall, it was an activity that members of her family, no matter what age, could enjoy, she said.
Williams ran around the event with her niece and nephew in the parking lot and lawn area of the South Towne Mall. In addition to the chili cook-off, event organizers set up games for kids including inflatable slides.
Rob Marriot, of Unified Fire, said he thought the event was a success because it allowed the firefighters to raise money toward the burn camp. Marriot said he and other firefighters from his department have participated in the burn camp and have seen the children learn how to cope with their injuries.
This year the state’s firefighters will give more than $12,000 to the burn camp, but the burn camp participants will give the firefighters much more than that in terms of strength, he said.
“Let’s promote the cook-off for next year and make it bigger and better,” Marriot said. “Let’s beat what we raised this year during next year’s event.”