As most families in Northeast Michigan are enjoying a Christmas meal and opening presents next week, there are some who are forced to delay their celebrations because a loved one is at work serving the community.
For local police and fire personnel working on Christmas is something that is accepted when they choose their career. They say it is hard being away from family when scheduled to work, but support from local businesses and citizens make their shifts much easier to deal with. Firefighter/paramedic Mike Tork is married and has six children. He said he has lost count of how many Christmas holidays he has had to work over the course of his 27 year career. He said it is something that needs to be done and his family understands the its celebration may be held at a different time than most others.
"If I have to work we make up the difference either before I go to work, or after," Tork said. "The kids have never known anything different. It is just the way it goes and we know once in a while there will be another guy who may not have family and might swap with someone who does, but it is what it is. It goes with the territory."
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Dan Hibner, left, and Mike Tork move an emergency stretcher while working Friday. Both firefighter/paramedics have worked on Christmas and say their families adjust and celebrate before of after their shift. They said they knowing working on Christmas was almost a certainty when they chose their profession.
Tork's partner, Dan Hibner, said he is off this Christmas, but has worked them in the past. He said at this point in his life working the holiday isn't a big dea because he doesn't have children yet. He said his wife and other family celebrate Christmas when he has a day off.
"We have a couple families we celebrate with and we just have to sort of switch things up and everyone moves their schedule around. You just make due, it is the only lifestyle we know, " Hibner said. "Last year we had probably 30 people at the department. Our wives and the kids came down and had a turkey dinner. Remember we spend a third of our life together at work, so this is sort of our other family."
The police station also must have a full staff working to ensure it is prepared to handle an emergency. Lt. Eric Hamp is married and has two children. He said it is difficult to work on Christmas, but it is a byproduct of his choosing to go into law enforcement.
He said his family has leaned to adjust to his schedule. Hamp said there are other people with different occupations who have to work too.
"You have doctors and nurses, dispatchers and they all have to work," Hamp said. "Then there are those in the military. They are who we really need to think about and remember. They are thousands of miles away from their families."
Fire Chief Bill Forbush said one person can take a vacation day for Christmas and who works is determined by whose shift is on duty. He said the support the community provides during the holiday helps keep the moral of the workers high when they are needed to work on Christmas.
"The community is always very supportive, but even more so during Christmas time," Forbush said. "We get fruit baskets, meat and cheese trays and cookie sent to us. We sure appreciate that."
Police Chief Joel Jett said the department provides patrols 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He said the support and acts of kindness given to the officers during the holidays makes working a little easier.
"We serve a very generous community and the residents and businesses have always been very kind," Jett said. "The need for emergency services doesn't stop for the holidays. There is always going to be someone who needs our help. We are always on duty."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.