Fire truck cooks pizzas — at 900 degrees

SHELBY, Ia. – Most fire trucks help distinguish fires. The one here does just the opposite.

Lifelong friends and former U.S. Marines Kevin Spenla and David Ricardo, both of San Diego, bought a 1974 American LaFrance truck that once belonged to the fire departments in Newton, Ia., and Lorimor, Ia. They bought it last year on eBay for $3,200 and then jury-rigged it with a wood-burning oven that cost about three times the price of the truck itself.

They christened it Larrabell after Spenla’s grandfather, Larry, who lives in Woodward, Ia. And it was that Iowa connection, in fact, that prompted them to haul the truck from Southern California to last year’s RAGBRAI, where it made it’s pizza-making debut.

The truck still runs, but not so well on the interstate highway.

“You’ll hear it screaming down the street,” Spenla said.

The business partners and 10 others were serving up pizza to the crowds in Shelby — and serving fast. The oven heats up to 800 to 900 degrees and cooks handmade pizzas in about 90 seconds. Spenla, wearing overalls and not much else, scooped them out of the oven with a long wooden paddles.

The so-called Dang Brothers operation will follow the RAGBRAI route all week before returning to its usual territory at festivals and catering jobs in San Diego. A second truck serves the hungry folks at Camp Pendleton nearby.

“We love serving the RAGBRAI riders,” Ricardo said, sipping a beer insulated with a koozie made from a slice of the original fire hose. “We’d never miss this.”

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