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McDonald’s in Sisters turns away hungry firefighters; Chops Bistro steps in to help

(Update: Adding another firefighter's comments)

After report goes viral, McDonald's owner says he's 'disheartened,' supports firefighters

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) --Social media posts that went viral online said a firefighting crew was refused service at the McDonald's location in Sisters Tuesday night, but another nearby restaurant stepped up to help. The fast-food restaurant's owner says he's "disheartened" by what happened, and that they'll work to show how they fully support the firefighters.

Kaylee Rabe said Thursday she received a phone call from her wildland firefighter husband, saying he had just been denied service from the Sisters McDonald's.

Kaylee's husband, Darren Rabe, had just finished a 15-hour shift on the Grandview Fire and was looking for something to eat along with the rest of his team, which totaled about 22 people.

"Usually when they're on fires, there's a camp kitchen that provides food for them so they don't have to buy their own food or worry about that," she said. "However, the camp was fairly new, so they hadn't set up a kitchen yet."

It was a little past 9 p.m. Tuesday, and the only restaurant open in town was McDonald's, which was set to close at 10.

Rabe and his team went to the drive-thru, but were told they could not be helped there, although the restaurant lobby was still open.

Kaylee said Rabe told her one of the employees at the McDonald's said it was because too many firefighters had already passed through with large orders.

"My husband then said, 'Well, we're firefighters too' -- and they said, 'Well, come to the lobby.' And then, when they got to the lobby, there was some discrepancy between the firefighters and the McDonald's workers," Kaylee said.

One of the firefighters, Kevin Maxwell, contacted NewsChannel 21 early Friday and said the restaurant's gates were closed when they arrived, so he walked into the gas station store to get to the McDonald's, saw three people working and "asked if were able to be served."

Maxwell said, "The assistant manager was at first okay with feeding me, because I think she thought it was only me, but when I told her I was with a hand crew, meaning 20 (people), she started getting finicky."

"I asked her if it would be a problem, and she hesitated pretty hard and then decided to refuse service to us after literally serving two other people ahead of us," he wrote.

A worker from another restaurant in Sisters saw the commotion from next door, at the Chevron gas station. She decided to step in.

Tracy Syanovitz, owner of Chops Bistro, said, "She called me up and said, 'Do you mind if I bring 10 people over to feed them tonight?' We were closed -- and I said, 'Absolutely!"

So Syanovitz opened up her restaurant and went to work in the kitchen.

"They are very deserving for businesses to open up and take care of them," she said.

Syanovitz fed the entire crew a steak dinner, free of charge.

"They were the most genuine, appreciative people that instead of having a hamburger, they actually had a meal. It was awesome to do it," Syanovitz said.

After praising Chops Bistro for its assistance to the crew, Maxwell said of the McDonald's, "Never have I ever been treated so poorly by a company while defending a city or its surrounding forests."

NewsChannel 21 reached out to the Sisters McDonald's owners for comment, but they declined to go on camera.

Scott Acarregui, owner of the Sisters McDonald's location, provided the following statement instead.

"Supporting first responders is core to my organization's values. We are committed to serving our community and have provided thousands of free meals to our firefighters and first responders battling our local wildfires for generations. We are disheartened to hear of this incident which is not reflective of the high expectations I set for my organization. We look forward to continuing to serve the firefighters who are courageously working to battle the Oregon wildfire."  

Although not providing a clear explanation of just what happened, the owner said he does plan to reach out to the fire crews stationed in Sisters, in an attempt to further resolve the incident.

Article Topic Follows: Fire Alert
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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.

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