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Converted fire engine bakes up wood-fired pizza in Butte

Big Hole Pizza Company
Posted at 9:28 AM, Nov 20, 2023

BUTTE — A fire truck is usually used to put out fires, but right here in the Mining City one truck uses fire to make pizza.

The Big Hole Pizza Company began creating wood-fired pizzas out of a converted fire truck in 2021 but it wasn't a smooth project for owner Donnie Speer.

Speer says during a winter off from his landscaping business, he started building a pizza oven with the goal of making a family business that he could share with his 9-year-old daughter.

"Brick by brick I got 'er done, and then I realized how heavy it was," says Donnie.

That was the first obstacle he ran into. He says he became worried about finding a trailer that could accommodate the weight of the oven but one day he noticed an old fire truck that had been in his neighbor’s yard for 15 years.

"I drove by one day and a light bulb just went off," says Speer. "Believe it or not, all I’ve had to do is drain the fluids out of it and rebuild the carburetor, replace some belts and everything was in running order."

The old firetruck from Kentucky can support the weight of the wood-fired pizza oven, but converting the 1978 fire engine introduced more obstacles.

"We’ve had tremendous triumphs and tribulations throughout the project. The firetruck actually caught on fire midway through the project and half of it had to be rebuilt," says Speer.

Through that experience, Speer says he was so grateful for his volunteer fire department who put out the fire, saving his shop and his truck, that he signed up to join the volunteer firefighters in Wise River, where the food truck originated.

The Big Hole Pizza Company firetruck travels to festivals, rodeos, and farmer’s markets around southwest Montana, and through the winter they will have a more permanent spot outside Maverick Bar & Grill in Uptown Butte.

"This has been quite the journey where one door closes and another door opens. We kept sticking with it and here we are," says Speer.