The Bugler

Bugler Newsletter

Some Like It Hot

Ideas for the Bugler come from a variety of sources. This week it came from a simple bottle of hot sauce purchased on a recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. The sauce is made by a Palo Alto, California firefighter. Turns out a local fire department hobby has turned into a business as well as a boost to some local college students.

In the summer of 1994, Firefighter Lee Taylor left his pepper plants in the small garden behind the firehouse while he went on vacation. During the time he was gone, the peppers took off and by his return there were more peppers than anyone could use, unless you are Lee Taylor and decide you can make hot sauce. After tinkering for only an hour he decided he had a recipe that he liked. For the next few years he made his hot sauce and gave a bottle every year to his fellow firefighters.

In 2003 Lee Taylor decided that it was important "to enhance the Firefighters' presence within the community by providing valuable services that were not emergency based." His idea blossomed into a scholarship fund and he entered a bicycle race for charity to contribute money to high school seniors attending college. After one too many bicycle accidents fellow firefighters approached him about commercially producing his hot sauce as a way to raise money for the scholarship fund and other local charities.

According to the scholarship funds website, the original recipe was used to make the first commercial batch in 2005. "The batch sold out in a week and in March 2006 the Palo Alto Firefighters Charitable Fund was established as a nonprofit corporation."

With his primary business experience running a lemonade stand as a child, Taylor soon learned that making a commercially viable product was much different than a few bottles of hot sauce that you give your friends. As he told the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2011, "You cannot grow something in your backyard, make it in your kitchen and sell it to the public," Taylor says. "There has to be a tremendous amount of documentation." It also takes many tries to replicate the same taste in larger batches. A wall definitely had to be built between his day job as a firefighter and his charity job as a pepper bottler. Today the firehouse is pepper-free as all the growing of the peppers, and the production and distribution is done in Heraldsburg, California.

There have been many rewards from this endeavor, not least of which has been the support of the other Palo Alto firefighters who through word of mouth have provided free publicity for the hot sauce. The sauce has never been commercially advertised but it has been successful. As of May 2013, 92 college scholarships have been awarded to deserving high school graduates from the Palo Alto community. In addition, an additional $35,000 has been donated to area charities over the last 7 years.

The hot sauce is sold in several retail outlets in the Bay area but for direct sales visit

Hot Sauce Recipes

Now that you know about the hot sauce, what do you do with it? Taylor says that for the original sauce he uses "red ripe peppers, which cuts down on the tartness and makes a mellower, sweeter sauce." The base of Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce is serrano and jalapeño peppers, but the sauce is maybe two alarms on a five-alarm scale. A new flavor, XXHabenero, recently hit the shelves. Taylor says he puts his sauce on almost everything, including Italian and Mexican food. Visit their recipe page for some great ideas from breakfast foods to chocolate chip cookies.

Please check out both websites about this great endeavor. The first is about the charity and scholarship fund and the second is the website to purchase the pepper sauce.

Lady in the Harbor (Take 2)

Did you miss the great slide show that was part of our July 9th Bugler on the Statue of Liberty? It is too good to miss so we are giving you a second chance. The following link is an inspiring look at the history of the Statue of Liberty, including old photos of the casting of the statue and early visitors to the island. If the "show" goes slower than you would like, click your mouse and it will take you to the next screen. When you are ready, click here to download the presentation.

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