Eight firefighters — four from Station 17 and four from Station 9 — ate 37 Barn Burner burgers on Tuesday at Farmer Boys in DTLA. In doing so, they raised $3,700 for the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation. It’s a number that will go toward buying a potentially life-saving piece of equipment for many local firefighters.

“I’m honored to do my part,” says Zachary Coughlin, 26, firefighter III representing Station 9, about participating in this morning’s burger-eating contest. In the 24 hours before the contest, he stuck to a lettuce diet to make space for as many Barn Burners as possible. His main aim? Help get local firefighters outfitted with hydration backpacks.

As of late, this particular piece of equipment has become increasingly valuable. “The need [for the backpacks] became evident during the recent fires,” says Karen Wagener, president of the LAFD Foundation, which provides equipment not included in the city’s budget. “Fighting fires or responding to disasters when it's hot means that firefighters must remain hydrated for their health and safety.”

The sad reality is that despite firefighters’ continued efforts, L.A.’s city budget doesn’t include funds for the majority of LAFD to be outfitted with the hydration backpacks. Amid the wildfires, which have seared local communities and turned entire swaths of SoCal into hellish scenes, firefighters like Coughlin are at risk of dehydration as they try to keep the burning chaos in check.

Station 9 firefighter Zachary Coughlin; Credit: Courtesy Ajenda Public Relations

Station 9 firefighter Zachary Coughlin; Credit: Courtesy Ajenda Public Relations

To date, only 720 of LAFD’s 3,300 firefighters have the specially designed backpacks. At a cost of $275 per unit, the total cost to outfit the remaining, potentially H20-deficient firefighters comes to $709,500. It’s a whopping number, but it is one that locals, such as the higher-ups at Farmer Boys, have been hard at work trying to cut down.

“The LAFD Foundation helps support firefighters and the important work they do, so we wanted to do our part in helping these heroes who sacrifice so much for our communities,” says Larry Rusinko, vice president of Farmer Boys. “National Burger Month seemed like the perfect time to host this type of charitable event.”

A medley of Fiery Farmer’s sauce, fried jalapeño wheels and pepper jack cheese, the burgers certainly brought the firefighters some heat this morning, as well as $100 for every Barn Burner consumed. “I’m glad to be able to raise money for a worthwhile organization in a fun way,” says Andre Ramirez, 25, firefighter III representing Station 9, about participating in the morning’s contest.

At the end of today’s tasty albeit messy event, Station 9 was named the winner, with its 27-year-old Austen Johnson eating five Barn Burners, earning a burger-themed trophy. The firefighters’ total winnings mean LAFD Foundation has the funds to buy at least another 12 hydration backpacks. Not bad for a morning’s mad-dash mastication.

If you’d like to help more firefighters obtain the valuable piece of equipment, you can make your own charitable contribution by clicking here.

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