Firehouse Subs celebrates anniversary, donates over $6,000 to fire department

Co-owner Marsha Chatterjee, in red, and Becsy Paraji hold the scissors for the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of Firehouse Subs. Temecula Mayor MaryAnn Edwards displays a certificate from Sen. Jeff Stone. Chamber business members are joined by Firehouse Subs staff and firefighters from Cal Fire and Riverside County. Paul Bandong photo
Co-owner Marsha Chatterjee, in red, and Becsy Paraji hold the scissors for the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of Firehouse Subs. Temecula Mayor MaryAnn Edwards displays a certificate from Sen. Jeff Stone. Chamber business members are joined by Firehouse Subs staff and firefighters from Cal Fire and Riverside County. Paul Bandong photo

Local restaurant Firehouse Subs celebrated its one-year anniversary with a ribbon-cutting by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and a presentation to the Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire departments.

“Many thanks to Firehouse Subs for this amazing donation,” Battalion Fire Chief Vince O’Neal Franchise said.

Owners Becsy Paraji and Marsha Chatterjee who are cousins by marriage began the process of opening the Temecula location two and a half years ago.

“The city of Temecula was wonderful to work with, and the local fire department donated some of the equipment you see decorating our walls,” Paraji said. “It was the beginning of a great relationship. We both love food and we love to cook, but one of the reasons we chose this franchise was the emphasis on giving back to the community.”

Indeed, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation – serving 1,040 franchisees in 44 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas – has proven to be a major brand factor in the relationships between the franchisees and their local fire, ambulance and police departments.

“We do come here for lunch a lot,” Riverside County Battalion Chief Brad Cassidy said with a smile, “The subs are really good.”

Founders Chris and Robin Sorensen are former firefighters; their dad was a firefighter for 43 years, area representative Jeff Press said.

“They wanted to reach out to local fire departments and first responders,” Press said, “So every store we open is an opportunity to help those groups.”

Each store raises money by selling used five-gallon pickle buckets with the Firehouse Subs logo for $2 each, offering to “round up” customer bills, accepting donations in a canister by the register, and selling medallions during fire safety month, Press said. To date, the foundation has donated over $24 million in grants to first responders.

“The funding provides equipment, education, disaster relief support and in many cases, contributes to saving lives,” Press said. “In our short time here in California, Firehouse Subs has already donated over $574,000.”

Recently, in honor of their 1,000th store opening, the founders donated $1 million to support the 1,000 Automatic Electronic Defibrillator Gift Campaign.

Fire Chief Curtis Brown of Temecula Cal Fire heard about the grant program, and they applied for funds to purchase four portable collapsible water tanks, a value of $6,830.

The pumpkins – so-called because of their orange color and shape – will allow the firefighters to be more aggressive and more efficient at fighting wildland fires and fires in areas with limited or no access to water resources, Cassidy said. The shared resource will benefit the local community and the county, covering an area of 7,200 square miles, he said.

“A typical helicopter drop is 375 gallons,” air crewman Jared Collins said. “So this equipment will allow us to do 10 drafts in the helitender with faster turnaround, and they can be continuously refilling it with water tender trucks which hold 1,800-2,000 gallons of water at the same time as we are flying back and forth.”

The portable tanks are small enough and light enough to be carried by one or two firefighters, and they can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water.

“This gives us much greater flexibility to be responsive to a variety of firefighting situations,” Capt. Lucas Spellman, public information officer for Riverside County Fire, said. “On average, 95 percent of the fires that are put out are 10 acres or less. This equipment will allow us to provide a ready source of water for engines and helicopters to draft from without having to make longer turnaround trips. This will make us more efficient and more effective. Having a portable water source is especially important in times of drought and areas where there might not be fire hydrants.”

The pumpkins will be located near wine country, De Luz and at the county air base.

“The portable pools can also be used in emergency flooding situations,” Spellman said. “Water from flooded areas can be pumped into the pools; fire engines and water tenders can then suck it up and relocate the water to other non-flooded areas.”

Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards, in her role as senior district representative for Sen. Jeff Stone, presented a certificate to owners Paraji and Chatterjee on behalf of Stone. Andrews noted that Senator Stone “has long been an advocate of ‘safety first’, pioneering the use of Geographical Information Systems on fire trucks and the 4-0 mandate requiring four firefighters per truck, one of which is a licensed paramedic.”

Firehouse Subs staff (front) and members of the Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Departments (rear) join with franchise owners Lyon and Becsy Paraji and Marsha Chatterjee (second row) in the presentation of fire-fighting equipment made possible by a grant through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Paul Bandong photo
Firehouse Subs staff (front) and members of the Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Departments (rear) join with franchise owners Lyon and Becsy Paraji and Marsha Chatterjee (second row) in the presentation of fire-fighting equipment made possible by a grant through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Paul Bandong photo

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