Fire Fighting in Canada

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Recipe Rescue: October 2011

When we choose fire fighting as a profession, or decide to help serve our communities as volunteer firefighters, I am sure we consider the risk-versus-reward aspect of this career.

September 29, 2011 
By Patrick Mathieu

When we choose fire fighting as a profession, or decide to help serve our communities as volunteer firefighters, I am sure we consider the risk-versus-reward aspect of this career. The rewards associated with fire fighting can be one of the biggest highlights of this job. Firefighters are an integral part of the community, serving as role models and serving individuals in their greatest times of need, which can provide great personal and job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, the risks associated with fire fighting come at an equally high level. We work in toxic environments, put ourselves in dangerous situations and encounter very high levels of stress. We all accept these factors as part of our job, but sometimes we forget the impact these things have on our bodies.

Despite all of the dangers we may face, heart attacks are the leading cause of line-of-duty-deaths. It’s hard to believe that we deal with so many job-related dangerous situations over which we have no control, but heart attacks – something we are quite capable of preventing – are taking the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters. Fire departments across the country are now stressing nutrition, fitness and health awareness to their memberships and we can definitely do our part. October is Canada’s official Healthy Workplace Month – a perfect opportunity to tweak our diets and lifestyles just a bit to ensure the rewards of this job far outweigh the risks.

The strain on our hearts comes from many directions. We often go from a pretty sedentary state to fully active beyond normal conditions, in just minutes. Throw in a heavy dose of adrenalin and our hearts are pumping before we even start our work. When our work does commence, it is very labour-intensive and we must work in extreme conditions. Top off all this with the stress of wanting to perform our jobs well, especially if lives are involved, and it’s easy to see how our tickers take quite a beating. That is why it is so vitally important to start out with a good heart, so when we get on those trucks, we know our heart can handle the load of this job. 


The diet aspect of this scenario is such an easy fix. It is common knowledge that firefighters have hearty appetites, and often eat a lot of processed food that is quickly and easily prepared. The fix can be as simple as adjusting the ingredients we choose: for example, using lean cuts of meat or fish, using whole grains and whole foods, minimizing processed foods and getting a heavy dose of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables. Employing different cooking techniques, such as grilling and braising, or using a slow cooker, can help to optimize the benefits of the ingredients we choose. Heart-healthy foods don’t have to be bland and unsatisfying and shouldn’t leave us raiding the refrigerator for a slice of pizza. Cooking healthier food is an opportunity to be creative in the kitchen. Flavouring good-quality ingredients with fresh herbs and different spices can add a pop to heart-healthy foods, creating an unlimited array of possibilities. Fall is the perfect time of year to use fresh, local produce and herbs to create a warm, satisfying meal for members of your firehall family that will keep them around longer to enjoy the benefits of this very rewarding career. 

Turkey stew combined with a salad with plenty of ingredients is a healthy way to satisfy
a hearty appetite. Photo by Patrick Mathieu

Turkey stew


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lbs bone-in turkey thighs (skin removed)
  • 1 tbsp herb de Provence
  • 1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cubed
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • fresh ground pepper
  • pinch of chipotle pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 149 C (300 F).
  2. Rub 1 tbsp of olive oil on the turkey thighs and then season with the herb de Provence, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
  3. In a Dutch oven with a lid, heat the other 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-to-high heat on the stovetop. Brown the turkey pieces in batches if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes per side. In the last minutes of browning of the last batch, add the onion, celery and carrots.
  4. Add the salt, chipotle pepper, Worcestershire sauce, fresh thyme, bay leaves and half of the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, remove from the stovetop, cover, and put in the oven for one hour.
  5. After an hour, remove the Dutch oven and add the rest of the vegetables and remaining stock. Return to the oven covered and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about one more hour.
  6. When stew is finished, stir in the fresh basil and parsley and season with fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!

Heart-healthy foods do not have to be bland and unsatisfying.

Spinach salad with apple dressing


  • 10 oz pre-washed baby spinach
  • 2 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 3 oz lean turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced z
  • (about 1 cup)
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Gala apple, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Place spinach into a large bowl. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes, or until it is just crispy. Remove meat from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Drain any remaining fat from the skillet.
  2. Add olive oil, apple and onions to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, or until onions soften slightly. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 more minutes. Put apples, onions and mushrooms on top of the spinach.
  3. Add apple cider and vinegar to the skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir to scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until cider is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Whisk in mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour warm cider dressing over the mushrooms and spinach and toss until the vegetables are well coated. Sprinkle the bacon and pecans on top and serve. Enjoy!

Patrick Mathieu is an 11-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue. He has
won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of
dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire
hall. Contact him at

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