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B.C. deputy fire chief offers saucy solution to fundraising

Big Lake man partners with company to create Firehall Classics Gourmet to help cash-strapped halls
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Big Lake Volunteer Fire Rescue fire chief Joel Bruneski, from left, deputy chief Mark Wilkie, and communications officer Ken Waters hold up some samples of the sauces Wilkie developed to help raise funds for the BLVFR. The department is hosting a barbecue fundraiser event at the Big Lake Fire Hall on July 30, 2023 from 1-3 p.m. to provide samples, engage with the community and sell the sauces as a fundraiser for their department. (Photo submitted)

Mark Wilkie wanted to put his skills to use to help those who do so much to help their communities.

Wilkie has over 36 years in the food industry, starting out as a chef in hotels and restaurants, and has developed almost 500 products over the years for the industry in the spices and sauces category.

So he wanted to use this background to help engage community and potentially provide some much-needed funding to support these services for training and equipment.

“Food is a really great way to get people together,” said Wilkie, and hopefully to get people to purchase some products in support of their local fire departments.

So Wilkie invested in creating Firehall Classics Gourmet, a way for fire halls to fundraise. Working with a manufacturing partner in the Lower Mainland, he developed a trio of sauces he thought people would be able to enjoy and might purchase to support their local fire department.

Wilkie also happens to be the deputy chief of the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Rescue (BLVFR), and appreciates how much so many people give to help support their communities through organizations like the BLVFR, which is not part of the funding through the Cariboo Regional District.

In 2017, Wilkie helped out with the wildfires in the area, and decided he wanted to become a member of BLVFR.

Wilkie has been part of the department for about five years, working his way up to deputy chief. This quick rise through the ranks has been supported through taking courses and training, all of which requires money. He said the people at the BLVFR have been very supportive and he wanted to give back and help other departments facing funding and give them opportunities to engage with the community.

He said he recognizes how so many fire departments are in need of fundraising ideas and opportunities to help provide the equipment and training they need to keep their communities safe.

READ MORE: Training key at Big Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue

“I really feel that they’re a valuable service,” he said, noting the funds for proper training and equipment are critical to keeping the volunteers safe as well.

So the Firehall Classics Gourmet trio is a package of three sauces which can be ordered by fire hall and rescue organizations with customized packaging for their organization, a barbecue sauce, a garlic pepper hot sauce and a steak sauce.

The fundraising products developed by Mark Wilkie which will be available for all volunteer fire and rescue organizations to help raise money for their operations. (Photo submitted)
The fundraising products developed by Mark Wilkie which will be available for all volunteer fire and rescue organizations to help raise money for their operations. (Photo submitted)

The groups can then sell the products and retain the net proceeds to support their organizations. The cost of the production of the products will go back into the project to help keep it self-sustaining.

The Big Lake Fire Rescue will be piloting the fundraising idea, starting off with an event at the Big Lake Fire Hall on July 30, 2023.

From 1-3 p.m. on the Sunday, the fire hall will have a free barbecue for the community, with a draw prize of a free barbecue, and stuff for kids.

“We’re going to barbecue up a storm,” said Wilkie, noting the ladies auxiliary group will also be helping out with the event.

Wilkie’s goal is to make the fundraising package into something other departments can draw on and to provide something a couple times a year to help support local volunteer fire departments across the country.

“I know how much effort our volunteers put in,” said Wilkie, noting all of the hours the volunteers give up to provide these important services.

He said there are over 3,600 career and volunteer fire departments across Canada with over 70 per cent of those being volunteer.

READ MORE: Fire departments team up for ice rescue training at Horsefly



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