PITTSBURG — For snowmobilers, the warming hut off Corridor 5 at the Deer Mountain State Campground is the place to get hot food every Saturday.
But this Saturday, and Sunday too, it'll also be the place where, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., riders can help the people who, in a pinch, help them: the members of the Pittsburg Fire Department.
During the season, the hut is operated by the Pittsburg Ridge Runners, which, with more than 3,000 members and 200 miles of trails under its care, bills itself as New Hampshire's largest snowmobile club.
Proceeds from food sales at the warming hut usually go to offset the club's trail-grooming costs. However, profits over the Presidents Day Weekend have for years been donated to the Pittsburg Fire Department.
The donations have ranged from $400 to $900, but the generosity has always been very welcome, said Fire Chief Kevin Lassonde, who like many residents wears many hats. In addition to being the head of the all-volunteer fire department since 2010, he is a contractor as well as an employee of the Ridge Runners and one of its many members.
"The club's been doing this for years," said Lassonde of the donations, adding that the Pittsburg department will have its rescue unit and wilderness-rescue trailer at the warming hut on Saturday "so people can touch and feel and ask questions, or not."
Thanks to the club, the department has been able to upgrade its portable lighting system from a generator- driven to a battery-operated LED unit, thus doing away with having to drag the cumbersome generator to emergency scenes. The money has also helped pay for seasonal turnout gear, including some of the 15 bags containing complete head-to-toe snowmobile suits that are normally packed in the rescue trailer.
No matter how a firefighter is dressed before he or she gets to an outdoor call, once there, Lassonde said, "You go in the trailer, grab a bag" put the clothes on and spring into action, safely and warmly attired.
Although "our budget will buy a lot of stuff," the department's approach, said Lassonde, is to spend taxpayer dollars very judiciously.
"If we have the funding coming in from donations, we try to do that," the chief said, adding he was "absolutely grateful" to the Pittsburg Ridge Runners and its annual Presidents Day weekend largesse.
"The club sees the value of its fire department to assist the people who are coming here to enjoy what Pittsburg has to offer and what the Ridge Runners have created. And the club is just showing its appreciation of what we do, night or day."