Coffee aids burn fund, scholarships

CBC News

Coffee is boosting caffeine levels and raising funds for a good cause in Winnipeg.

Firehouse Blend, a special brand from the Montana-based City Brew Coffee company, features a label with the image of a fire helmet nearing number 867 — the Winnipeg local for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union.

Proceeds from sales of the coffee go toward a fund that provides training for future firefighters.

The coffee is being sold locally by Lionel Crowther, a central Canada representative for the IAFF, and a Winnipeg firefighter who was injured in a 2007 blaze that claimed the lives of Capt. Harold Lessard and Capt. Tom Nichols.

Crowther was recently at U.S. burn camp for kids, as an IAFF representative, when City Brew approached him with the idea of selling the coffee. The company offered to provide the java at cost if a portion of the proceeds was donated to the IAFF Burn Foundation.

Crowther decided to take it on, bump the price up by $3 and direct the additional proceeds to the Lessard/Nichols Scholarship fund.

It was a scary proposition at first. Crowther had to pay about $5,000 for a pallet of coffee up front. It was close to Christmas and he wasn’t sure his Visa card could handle it.

One of his colleagues offered to split the cost of the pallet. Because they were the first in North America to take up City Brew on its offer, the company honoured them with the special label.

They loaded up Crowther’s wife’s Toyota Tercel and hit the firehalls in Winnipeg, selling more than 700 bags in a week and raising in excess of $2,000 for the scholarship fund.

He said firefighters were happy to contribute because of the good causes benefitting from the proceeds. The blaze that killed Lessard and Nichols hit particularly close to home, Crowther said.

Lessard, 55, and Nichols, 57, died from a flashover during an intense fire at a home on Place Gabrielle Roy, a cul-de-sac neighbourhood across from the French Quarter of St. Boniface.

The two men were among six firefighters trapped on the second floor of the home on Feb. 4, 2007, when they were struck by the huge fireball, which reached thousands of degrees Celsius within seconds.

Four other firefighters, including Crowther, were injured.

“It could have been any one of us but it was the two captains we lost,” he said. “Something like that can happen any day. Thank goodness it’s only been once in this last 80 years [in Winnipeg that a firefighter was killed on the job].”

The public can also purchase the Firehouse Blend by emailing

Each 12-ounce bag sells for $10.