When the Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association launched its annual Pancake Breakfast nearly 20 years ago, John Thompson, Fred Martin, John McClure and Bob Hughes, among others, cobbled together a bunch of portable grills, coolers and propane tanks and prepared to serve up a Memorial Day breakfast for a few hundred people.

And then 800 showed up. And hundreds more showed every year after that, with volunteers serving up some 1,500 to 2,000 plates each and lines forming around the block outside the Mill Valley Fire Department’s downtown station on Corte Madera Avenue.

The massive event is set for Monday, May 25 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on traffic-free Corte Madera Ave. in front of City Hall and outside the fire station with pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice and coffee.

As the Pancake Breakfast has continued to grow over the years, one aspect of it has gone largely unnoticed: the event’s organizers have created quite a mobile kitchen setup that would come in handy in the event of a catastrophic event like a massive wildfire or earthquake, says Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighter Ron Vidal.

“We feed nearly 15 percent of Mill Valley’s population in four hours on that day,” Vidal says of the Pancake Breakfast. “We’re building resiliency and the ability to do a mass feeding if we’re ever in that situation.”

In addition to showcasing an impressive mobile kitchen, the Pancake Breakfast is also the biggest fundraiser of the year for Mill Valley’s volunteer firefighter program, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The Mill Valley Fire Department took shape more than 120 years ago as an all-volunteer organization, beating out some fires with wet potato sacks and renting space to store its gear.

“You keep the department strong by continuing to develop that volunteer pool,” Vidal says. “The program creates a candidate pool for the hiring needs for Mill Valley and departments all over Marin and the Bay Area.”

Volunteer program officials estimate that it costs about $4,000 to properly train and equip an active duty firefighter and the group hopes to raise between $10,000 and $15,000 at this year’s event.

Make a donation to the Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association via Network for Good here.
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