Providing basic needs in trying times


Doug Radunich

Thursday morning, the Nu-Way team sets up the dining tent at the Saratoga Elementary School playground. Nu-way provides food, portable showers, sinks and toilets for emergency personnel. The convoy filled up Elm Avenue Thursday morning before setting up at the playground.

As flood safety volunteers get dirty and work up appetites, a Lander-based business has come to the rescue in a different way.

Nu-Way Inc. provides food catering and showers, and the crew of roughly 15 employees spends most of their time on the road, traveling to sites of fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disaster emergencies nationwide. Equipped with trucks and trailers carrying mobile kitchens and other facilities, Nu-Way cooks and provides breakfasts, lunches and dinners; tents for eating and food serving; and portable showers, sinks and toilets.

The company's services are provided for emergency volunteers, fire incident management teams and others who help out with the emergencies on site. Nu-Way co-partner Harry Reed said he and his crew rolled into Saratoga Thursday morning, and set up their services at the field behind Saratoga Elementary.

""We'll serve anybody they send over to eat, and we'll probably have city maintenance people and so forth," he said. "They were talking about us having to serve around 275 people, so we'll start cooking and quit when we don't have anyone left in line. We mostly cover fires, but we do other emergency situations like tornadoes, hurricanes or even labor management dispute strikes."

Since 2011, Reed said this was their second time providing services in Saratoga for a flood-related emergency.

"It was three years ago when they had their last flood and the river was so high, and we stayed for about a week," he said. "We were setting up where we are now. We just pulled in this morning and they've tied us down for a week, and I assume we'll be close to that. It's hard to say and it depends on the river level, but if the weather stays warm and windy like this, the snow might just keep on melting."

Reed said Nu-Way began as a Lander-based restaurant, and that during a fire in the area, which happened in the early 1970s, the business was asked to provide sack lunches for firefighters. Reed volunteered to make dinner for them that evening.

The new venture went so well that during the next year he began sending out his cost sheet to fire districts in the Rocky Mountain region, and the business has grown ever since for more than 40 years. The food services and shower facilities are each operated under separate contracts.

"It was originally a restaurant, and then we went into social catering big-time in 1972," Reed said. "We went on our first two fires that year, and I would imagine that company-wise, between showers and kitchens, we've probably been on 400 to 450 fires."

Under contract the crew has traveled as far as New York and California, and mostly covers fires across the country, especially those in western states. Nu-Way even provided food and facilities for those involved with disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.

"For Hurricane Sandy, we were in New Orleans for three months, and we made lunches and did that kind of thing for several days," Reed said. "We worked with rescue operation and salvage operation crews."

Reed said they usually stay fairly busy, but that downtime can come around the fall and winter seasons.

"People ask me why I do this business, and I give them five good reasons, which are November, December, January, February and March," he said. "We don't have many fires then, so we do get some time off in the winter. Some of our crew is full-time, but a lot of them are seasonal or college students who worked for us before."


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