By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

As a way to show appreciation for area first responders in the wake of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, several staff members from H-E-B barbecued all-day Friday to feed local police and firefighters.

Firefighters and police officers chowed down on fajitas as a part of H-E-B's seventh annual "Helping Heroes" initiative at Killeen Fire Department's main fire station on 28th Street.

In Central Texas, about 770 employees served 154 fire stations. Across the state, more than 300 stores and 3,300 employees participated in the event.

Rudy Gill, general manager of the downtown Killeen H-E-B, has participated in the appreciation initiative for four years and his employees were eager to serve first responders.

"If they want us to wash fire trucks, we'll wash trucks," Gill said. "They like to eat here, so we feed them."

The anniversary of 9/11 coupled with area firefighters' ongoing battle with extreme fire conditions made the appreciation that much sweeter, said KFD Chief J.D. Gardner.

Central Texas firefighters have been especially stressed, having to watch the huge wildfires in Bastrop from afar.

The Texas Forestry Service has asked area firefighters to remain in their respective cities because extreme drought conditions could spark a destructive wildfire in minutes.

"I've been in the fire service for 30 years, and this is the worst fire season we've ever seen," Gardner said. "Having a time to sit down and relax and not be focused on fires is important."

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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