Fire Station Cooking: Ian’s Chili

As we roll into fall, the cooler air makes me think of the great things about this time of year (eating doesn’t count because that’s a year-round love). I think of football, hunting, bonfires, and wearing my turnouts without feeling like I am in a sauna. My hunger combined with the fall makes me think of chili. Thanks to Ian Thompson from L.A. County Fire Station 116, we have not only a great chili recipe but also a proven one to warm our bellies as the temperatures start to drop, especially for those of us up close to the Northern border.
I thought this would also be a good time to touch again on why I write this column and also why I think cooking and eating together is so important. Of course, there are the great recipes submitted by fellow firefighters. There is also the goal of bringing proven recipes to newer firefighters forced to take a turn cooking under the watchful eye of senior crew members who may seem intimidating. But the primary reason is that I think it strengthens the bond among crews. I’m not sure why it works so well. Maybe it is the sense of normalcy it brings to a job where you are not always home for dinner with your own family. I guess it doesn’t matter why, as long as it builds crew bonds. And, thanks to all those who have submitted recipes, we can continue to cook and eat together with recipes such as this one from Ian Thompson.
Ian Thompson is a retired 33-year veteran of the L.A County Fire Department. He also served in the U.S. army for two years and went to Vietnam. Ian says that he stole the recipe from Dick Sterling when they worked together at L.A. County Fire Station 20 in Norwalk, CA, but customized it by adding bell peppers and onions. He also made it for the crew at L.A. County Fire Station 116 when it was his turn to cook. Ian says that L.A. County Fire has about 2,800 members and around 170 fire stations.

We made Ian’s Chili on a Sunday afternoon at Station 1. After a few late-morning runs, we quickly prepared the chili and got the ingredients into the slow cooker before we had another run. By mid-afternoon the chili was ready, and the first Sunday of the 2010 NFL Football season was underway. There were a few interruptions through the day, but we enjoyed Ian’s Chili and football when we could, and it made for a nice Sunday afternoon in the firehouse.



Ian’s Chili

5 lbs. ground chuck or turkey hamburger
2 large cans chili beans
4 cans (14.5 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 cans diced Ortega chilies
1 can El Patio tomato sauce
2 onions
4 bell peppers
Brown the hamburger along with the diced onions and bell peppers. Season it with seasoning salt and black pepper. Drain the grease off when the meat is brown. Combine the chili beans, chilies, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce with the browned meat, onions, and bell peppers. Bring it to a boil, then simmer (the longer it simmers, the better it tastes) for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 or 4 hours.
Ease of preparation: Easy
Time: About 20 minutes preparation and a few hours slow cooking
Cost: About $30.00 (about $5 per person)
Feeds: Around 6 firefighters

Download a copy of this recipe as a PDF HERE.

I am always looking for more recipes. Please share your creations with other firefighters by sending in your favorite recipe. Each article contains a quick introduction to those submitting the recipe, their department, their recipe, and any stories that may surround the legendary dishes. Send recipes to Please also include your name and e-mail address. Eat together when you are able, and stay safe out there.

Craig Nelson has been in the fire service for nine years, working as a volunteer, paid-on-call, and a full-time firefighter/EMT. He works for the Fargo (ND) Fire Department and works part-time at Minnesota State Community and Technical College–Moorhead as a fire instructor. He also works seasonally for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a wildland firefighter in Northwest Minnesota. Previously, he was an airline pilot. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership.

No posts to display