This story originally appeared in the March 17 edition of the weekly LINK Reader. To see these stories first, subscribe here.
A recent shift at the Florence Fire Department got unexpectedly spicy as first responders pivoted from a charity chili cookoff to a mother giving birth just one block away.
Chris Fuhrmann, Cody Brown, Vince Lanning, Taylor Schooler, and Jacob Worley work for Florence Fire Department’s C-shift. The firefighters were dropping off a pot of extremely spicy chili at the American Legion Auxiliary Post No. 4 one afternoon and were asked to stick around to judge a few pots of other firehouse-made chilis.
While they were “mostly” agreeing that the smoked briquette chili was the firehouse favorite and judges were tallying scores, Fuhrmann told LINK nky a dispatch call came across their radios for a possible childbirth approximately one block from the American Legion.
“We picked up the run, and helped mom deliver a baby boy,” he said. “Then, our ambulance crew, plus two members of the engine crew, transported mom and baby to the hospital in our ambulance.”
Both mother and baby were reportedly doing well after the unexpected homebirth.
While the ambulance took the new mom and baby to the hospital, Fuhrmann remained with the engine and drove back to the American Legion to pick up the chili pot. That’s when he found out that C-shift won the cook-off with its impossibly spicy and highly top-secret recipe.
Fuhrmann shared that chili in the firefighting world is sacred, “passed down through the ages from firefighter to firefighter.” He said this particular batch was made “in an extremely hot pot, releasing a pepper spray-like gas into the kitchen, and turning half the firehouse into a hazardous environment,” but their guys can take the heat.
Though their recipe is secret, he shared it includes serrano, Carolina Reaper, jalapeno and Thai hot chilis.
“The chili gets most of its flavor from the fresh ingredients, so our spice bill is very small. We also used mostly ground beef, with a smaller amount of ground maple sausage. It’s smoky, savory, and usually fairly spicy,” he said.
The mix earned them first place, which came with a $100 prize that they asked be made out to the Chip Terry Fund, a local charity supporting first responder mental health.
Some of the guys on C-shift shared they fell into the firefighting world accidentally and others come from families full of firefighters and first responders, but they all adore the job for the same reason and this particular afternoon served as a gentle reminder.
“Across the board we all fell in love with the career because of the camaraderie and teamwork, the chance to help people, the wonders of never having the same day twice, and our mutual dislike of desk jobs,” Fuhrmann said. “Any time you get to help someone in a time of need is a wonderful feeling. Especially for something as blessed as the birth of a child. Most of our calls don’t come from people who are having a good day, so when we get the chance to help with an objectively good thing happening, that’s a great day for us.”
On March 5, the fire department shared the good news on its social media page.
“It’s not every day you win first place at the American Legion Post 4 chili cook-off. And it’s not every day you get to deliver a baby. But, friends, it’s a very rare day indeed when you get to do both, simultaneously!” the post said. “Congrats to C-shift St. 32 on their exciting afternoon, and to mom and baby, who are both doing great!”