Survivors of the next Cascadia earthquake will have the comfort of a hot meal thanks to a five-year volunteer effort to convert surplus U.S. Army kitchens into emergency feeding stations.
Former state Rep. Jim Buck of Joyce announced in late September a countywide “kitchen plan” that involves eight self-contained trailered units that can each feed up to 600.
“There’s going to be a lot of soup and a lot of chili and a lot of mac and cheese and spaghetti and stew,” Buck said Wednesday.
“We’re not putting out steaks and chicken.”
The Army MKT-95 and MKT-99 field kitchens, four of which were donated by the Quileute Tribe, will be placed at strategic locations around Clallam County.
They will be deployed in the wake of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that geologists predict will reoccur along the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific coast in a matter of time.
State and local emergency managers say the Cascadia quake and tsunami will destroy roads and bridges, cutting off ground supplies to Clallam County for at least 30 days.
“We don’t know which buildings and restaurants and places that have kitchen facilities are going to survive the earthquake,” Buck said in a telephone interview.
“In previous emergencies like Katrina, or the Puerto Rican hurricane, or the other earthquakes, you had to bring this stuff in from other parts of the country, so having it here in advance is a big plus.”
Buck and his wife, Donna, visited Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 to gather information for the Cascadia scenario.
The kitchen plan will give first responders immediate access to critical food preparation equipment after a major disaster, Clallam County Fire District No. 3 Emergency Planner Blaine Zechenelly said.
“It also permits the military to use its limited air assets to bring in food and medicine instead of equipment,” Zechenelly said in a press release.
Buck and Zechenelly estimated that the pre-positioned kitchens would free up two C-130 transport flights to bring other needed supplies to the North Olympic Peninsula.
Sequim-based Fire District No. 3 received two field kitchens, one of which will be will be placed at the fire department’s maintenance facility in Carlsborg and other will be delivered to the city of Sequim.
“They are able to feed a great number of people in a relatively short amount of time,” Fire District 3 Assistant Chief Dan Orr said Wednesday.
Members of the fire department will learn how to unpack, use and repack the equipment.
“If you have an old car, you don’t want it to just sit,” Orr said in a telephone interview.
“You actually want to drive them because you put oil and stuff through the gears. These I view in kind of the same way.”
Geologists said the last Cascadia megathrust earthquake occurred offshore on Jan. 26, 1700.
The next big quake “may not be in our lifetime, but having some things pre-positioned, and some plans put into place, is going to make a big difference,” Orr said.
Buck spent much of his summer working on the kitchens with other Joyce Emergency Planning and Preparation (JEPP) volunteers. They used Army field manuals for the burners, stoves, trailers and other equipment.
The Quileute Tribe ordered one Army surplus kitchen several years ago and received four by happenstance.
“It was a fortuitous mistake by somebody that’s going to benefit us,” Buck said.
“It was at least five years ago, because I’ve been working on this since 2015.”
Buck praised the Quileute Tribe for donating the kitchens. The tribe has its own 40-foot field kitchen that was used by state Department of Natural Resources firefighters, Buck said.
“Tribal Police Sargent Kevin Harris, Police Chief Bill Lyon, Fire Chief Chris Morganroth and the members of the Tribal Council all helped make this happen,” Buck said.
“Everyone deserves a big thank you.”
The Makah Tribe also had two surplus Army kitchens. The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office has one surplus kitchen that is used for special events and as a backup for the jail kitchen.
JEPP paid $7,000 for its own surplus kitchen through the federal General Services Administration, Buck said.
A inventory was taken on the four kitchens donated by the Quileute Tribe. They were cleaned, inspected, repaired and re-packed into trailers.
Makah Emergency Manager Rickson Kanichy helped JEPP rehabilitate the four Quileute kitchens.
“Rickson and I are getting a lot of on-the-job training this summer,” Buck said.
“Hands-on training is the only way to learn how to use them. They are like a Rubik’s cube if you don’t have the field manuals.”
Forks-based Clallam County Fire District 1 received one field kitchen that will likely be kept at the Beaver fire station, Chief Bill Paul said.
“If we do have Cascadia or some seismic event — or any natural disaster — it will help feed a lot of people in our community,” Paul said Wednesday.
A dump truck was used to move the kitchens from La Push to Buck’s home in Joyce for needed repairs.
Lynn Bruch of Bruch and Bruch Construction contributed several days worth of driver and truck time for the tow, Buck said.
“It took about three weeks to get everything sorted out and grouped in piles before you could figure out what actually went to each of the units,” Buck said.
“Three of those units are complete, plus or minus a paring knife.”
Buck said he is now working on the fourth and final kitchen unit.
The next step in the kitchen plan will be to identify local service groups that could operate the field kitchens so they can be set up as quickly as possible.
A final step will be to secure agreements with local food banks and stores to support the kitchen plan.
JEPP has a supply of dehydrated food kept in storage in Joyce.
Buck and other emergency planners encourage the public to keep several weeks worth of non-perishable food and other supplies for emergencies.