Station 1 firefighters enjoy 'fruitful' garden
July 13, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew are normally not found growing next to a fire department, but at Fort Riley's Fire Station 1, the personnel have made it their pet project to cultivate the ground and harvest fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables.
Inspired by Station 4's garden last year, Richard Gallo, firefighter and emergency medical technician, Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services, Directorate of Emergency Services, said he started planting the 30-by-40-foot space in March, and, so far, it has been "doing really well, actually," yielding plenty to go around.
"Mostly a lot of the (produce) I've been giving to the other stations. The guys use them for dinner -- that's the main idea."
Gallo, who had a garden in his home state of New Jersey, said FES captains have taught him a lot of little things about gardening since he moved to Kansas about a year ago for the job.
With a volunteer firefighter for a dad and a retired federal fireman for an uncle, Gallo saw his fair share of firehouses before signing up to be a volunteer himself.
After giving his time for five years, Gallo began his federal service at Fort Monmouth, N.J., and accepted a position at Fort Riley as a firefighter last year after the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission closed Fort Monmouth in September 2011.
"(Volunteering) is a good way to get experience and certifications. It gives you a working knowledge so you can get into the field," he said.
Gallo and his fellow firefighters work 24 hours on, followed by 24 hours off -- and the long shifts can mean some down time, he said, calling Station 1 his "second home."
Taking turns looking after the garden, firefighters at Station 1 have managed to keep the garden healthy and fruitful with regular watering, weeding and harvesting. And, they've only lost a couple of tomatoes to the heat, Gallo said.
In their down time or on the weekends, the firefighters pickle or can some of the harvest to enjoy later in the year.
"It gives us something to work on together … I think it's a good thing. I like it -- I like the whole cook and firehouse aspect of having a garden," Gallo said.