HESPERIA — A restaurant with the goal of serving quality sandwiches and helping first responders save lives is open for business in the Victor Valley.

Located in the Hesperia Marketplace Shopping Center on Main Street, Firehouse Subs officially opened its doors on Tuesday morning, one day after an exclusive “VIP Day” where the sub shop’s crew was trained while the store accepted donations for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

Before the doors were opened to the firehouse-themed sub shop where fire equipment, signs and photos adorn the walls, co-owner Dan Aparekka said donations collected on VIP Day and throughout May will help pay for emergency response equipment for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

“The money will help pay for 60 electronic flares, swift water rescue gear and a rescue boat,” Aparekka said. “We’ll also be accepting donations all year long, right here in the store.”

Chatterjee said the store, with its 32 crew members, also collects money for County Fire and other public safety agencies by selling empty 5-gallon pickle buckets. She added that donations are also accepted online at firehousesubs.com.

While customers chose salads and sandwiches from the "Hot Specialty Sub Combo" or under-500 calorie "Healthy and Flavorful" menus, others admired a large mural that depicts County Fire firefighters looking over the Silverwood Lake area as a CAL FIRE helicopter flies overhead.

“We had that mural specially designed to capture the essence of the area,” Aparekka said. “We included a train moving through the valley, and a San Bernardino County Fire Department Engine with logos of Interstate 15 and the city of Hesperia.”

While the restaurant filled with diners of all ages Monday, Aparekka and co-owner Marsha Chatterjee invited customers to explore over 35 varieties of hot sauce flavors.

“We rate the heat index from one to 10, with each hot sauce bottle marked with a number — the hotter on the Scoville scale the higher the number,” Aparekka said. “We have some pretty hot stuff here and we encourage our customers to explore them.”

During the event, County Fire Battalion Chiefs David Wetzel and Tom Marshall were joined by almost a dozen firefighters as they stopped for lunch. Many families took their children outside to explore the fire engine parked near the store.

“I love the firehouse theme and the menu looks great,” Wetzel said, as restaurant crew members handed out plastic fire helmets to children. “The department received invitations from the restaurant and that was very much appreciated.”

Firehouse Subs is sandwiched between Yogurtland and Pieology pizzeria, across the parking lot from the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Founded by brothers and former firefighters Chris and Robin Sorensen, the company has 960 restaurants in 44 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, according to the company website.

“I think our store is a good fit for the neighborhood and it compliments other nearby businesses,” Aparekka said. “It’s a long and tedious process to find a location, but I know that our company picked a great place for Firehouse Subs.”

Firehouse Subs is located at 13325 Main St. For more information, visit www.firehousesubs.com or call 760-983-5512.

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.