BANGOR, Maine — Last Thanksgiving, firefighters at the Fire Department’s Central Station on Main Street got called out so many times that it was late in the day before they sat down to eat.
But this year, despite responding a flurry of early morning calls, the meal preparations ran smoothly and turkey with all the fixings was served promptly at noon.
That was due in part to the efforts of Jill and Bill Kulbe of Searsport, whose son, Chris Kulbe of Searsmont, is a five-year veteran of the department. The couple arrived at the station in the wee hours of the morning to get the dinner started and kept it on schedule while the firefighters worked.
“It’s fun, and our son is here,” said Jill Kulbe, wiping her hands on her apron. “You go where your family is.”
Chris Kulbe and the rest of the on-duty firefighters had a busy morning. Shortly after 7 a.m., when they reported for their 24-hour shift, they responded to several back-to-back calls. Fortunately, the incidents were relatively minor. But on the return trip to the station, said Lt. Randy Lowe, the firefighters noticed that something didn’t look just right at the Central Street Cafe, a popular eatery that, like most downtown businesses, was closed for the holiday.
“The windows were all black,” Lowe said, and the menus and other papers taped to the inside looked sooty. They pulled the trucks over and found that the window was hot to the touch.
“We knew we had something going on,” he said. When the firefighters broke open the door and entered the smoke-filled cafe, they found a fire burning in the kitchen, near the cooking range. It didn’t take long to extinguish the blaze, Lowe said, but they spent some time clearing the smoke from the building.
It was late morning when they got back to the station, and the turkey, potatoes, squash and other simple staples of the Thanksgiving feast were just about ready.
Several of the 23 on-duty firefighters and officers were joined by their families for the meal. Patrick Heathcote’s wife, Jennifer, brought in the couple’s two young daughters, 4-year-old Kaitlyn and 2-year-old Abigail.
“It doesn’t feel like you’re working when everyone’s here,” Heathcote said.
Jeff Sennett’s three sons — Zach, 21, Kevin, 19 and Max, 9 — came in for “dinner number one.” His wife and daughter, Sennett said, were preparing “dinner number two” at a friend’s home.
“It’s always a good feed, here,” Sennett said.
The cost of the annual Thanksgiving feast at Central Station is paid out of the firefighters’ paychecks, with some families donating treats as well.
Sitting at long tables in the upstairs of the station, the firefighters were still enjoying pie and coffee at 1 p.m. But shortly afterward, their trucks were wailing south on Main Street, off to answer the next call.