I retired from a medium-sized fire department (11 stations, 265 square miles in area) several years ago. Firefighters are normally on duty 24 hours or more, per shift. Firefighters have the option to "brownbag it" or cook "community chow."
Even with the best of intentions, it becomes sometimes necessary to change meal plans. For example, a long-term emergency call can scuttle the best group cooking plans. We had strict policies in place to cover on-duty shopping. No apparatus could start up and leave the station for the sole purpose of shopping. Likewise, sending a single crew member in a private vehicle can be illegal, as well as leaving the crew shorthanded.
Our units were allowed to stop anywhere along our normal route of travel, returning from calls, as long as we were in service and available by radio for emergency response. Additionally, we had an active regular routine of business inspections and/or training assignments that necessitated travel outside of the station. It was also permissible to shop while engaged in those activities.
Have any of the critics inquired if there are similar policies in effect in Thurston County? I would guess that most fire agencies work in this manner. If by chance they are not, it would be easy to implement a reasonable set of guidelines that will give the public protection while allowing for the often unique needs of our firefighters and medics.