Victor Soto started his mobile Fire Engine Dogs food truck almost accidentally. “In January of 2012 a friend had put a hot dog cart on Craigslist and Facebook,” Soto said. “I told him it would never sell because it looked like a fire truck.”
Three years later, Fire Engine Dogs is in full swing, as Soto renders up hot dog services to rescue empty stomachs all over town. “My friend made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Soto said, laughing.
“I never thought I’d get into the food business,” he said. Working full-time at Raytheon, Soto had enough on his plate before he started piling it high with hot dogs for the Tucson community. He operates the food truck weekends along with his wife, Eileen Roether, and their oldest daughter, as well as Kyle King, a family friend.
The fire engine food truck turned out to be so popular that it wasn’t long before Soto upgraded its appearance. “I’ll have had this new truck for one year this May,” he said. “People are very impressed with the look of it. I get a lot of compliments.”
Soto, who has never worked with the fire department himself, sought the advice of former firefighter Jim Watts to decorate the truck. “Watts gave me tips on how to make it look more like a real fire truck,” Soto said. “He suggested I put up flags on the back to blow in the wind, and images of hoses and pressure gauges.”
“The biggest surprise was putting the light bar on the roof,” he added. “At night we’ll turn that on, and kids love it.”
But as far as food goes, Soto said, “we cater not just to kids.” Soto serves up six specialty hot dogs, fresh cut fries, nachos with chili cheese or rib eye steak and tomatoes, and is considering adding sausages and other items to the menu. Soto’s version of a Sonoran hot dog is his Granite Mountain Hotshots Bombero Dog.
“The name is to honor the 19 firefighters who died at Yarnell,” Soto said. “Any man or woman who serves, police, firemen, military, I always try to thank them for their service.”
Look for Soto’s red truck and flashing lights at events throughout Tucson, especially those where children can be found. “I’ve gotten referrals from other food trucks to do a lot of these,” he said. “The fire truck is very kid friendly.”
“The most satisfaction I get is serving a hot dog out the window and someone comes back and thanks us for giving him a good meal,” Soto said. “Whenever someone comes back to compliment the taste and quality, that’s the best.”
An accidental food vendor, Soto now plans to continue serving up his hot dogs “as long as I can last. It’s a labor of love,” he said.
Visit Fire Engine Dogs’ Facebook page at
facebook.com/FireEngineDog for the truck’s whereabouts.