When you walk into the Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., it’s impossible to miss the handwritten sign spanning the doorway of the dining room that reads, “We are Las Vegas Strong.” If you walk a little farther across the lobby and through the white double doors into a dining room normally reserved for private events, you will see the bustling heart of a movement aimed at bringing relief to a community reeling from the uncertainty and devastation caused by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire.

The combined wildfires have burned more than 200,000 acres of forest near Las Vegas for more than a month, and the city quickly became an epicenter for welcoming evacuees and coordinating firefighting efforts. Inside the historic Castañeda Hotel, Bar Castañeda, owned by chef Sean Sinclair and his wife Katey Sinclair, opened its doors to serve free meals to first responders and evacuees.

The buffet is open from 2 to 6 p.m. seven days a week, although when I was there, I noticed the kitchen team preparing food for firefighters who couldn’t make it there until after 8 p.m. when their shifts were over. There’s a collective energy and determination among the staff at Bar Castañeda, and their plan is straightforward — as long as there is a need, they are going to feed everyone they can, no matter what.

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Mo Vigil helps serve food Sunday to firefighters and evacuees at the Castañeda Hotel. ‘We’re not just feeding people,’ Vigil said. ‘We want them to feel taken care of and treated with dignity and respect.’

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