Some fathers and mothers in Columbia County will miss Christmas morning with their children because today is not a holiday from work for many emergency responders.
Deputies with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the firefighters of Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue and other emergency personnel throughout the county are on duty this Christmas, protecting residents.
"It can get frustrating sometimes," said Columbia County Deputy James Flippo, a three-year veteran of the sheriff's office who said he has worked Christmas Day before.
"Obviously, you want to be with your family," he said. "Every parent wants to be there when your child wakes up and sees presents in the morning and runs and wakes you up. You want to be there to share that with them. But the job has to be done and we're going to be there for the citizens of the county."
Flippo, married and the father of two boys, said that on holidays, especially Christmas, it is sad that deputies see a rise in domestic calls, which are frequent on Christmas Day.
"(Christmas) is a time when families are supposed to be together, and we want to be with our families and we're going to calls where families are screaming at each other and not wanting to be together,'' he said. "There is kind of an ironic twist to it."
The sheriff's office also sees an increase in alcohol-related incidents, Flippo said.
He said, however, that working a 12-hour shift on Christmas isn't all negative. His wife and kids will visit family and, when possible, deputies are permitted to have lunch with their families while remaining on call.
Aside from domestic calls, residents often are grateful when deputies respond with aid, Flippo said.
"A lot of our citizens are appreciative around the holidays and they like to show their appreciation," he said. Flippo has answered accidental house alarm calls and been offered a dinner plate when he arrived.
When Flippo's shift ends, "Christmas Day begins. I get to go home and make up what I missed with my kids," he said.
Steve Weddle, a Martinez-Columbia firefighter at Engine Co. 1, agreed that it isn't easy working Christmas.
Just like any other day, firefighters work their 24-hour shift this Christmas, he said.
"You want to be home with the family, especially with young kids. It's hard, but we're a close-knit family at the fire department anyway," he said.
The department held a family party at Funsville last week and the station house will have a dinner tonight, said Weddle, a father of three.
"My kids know that Santa Claus comes to firefighters' houses Christmas Eve," he said.
The fire department sees a rise in medical calls and minor fires because of the burning of present boxes and wrapping paper, said battalion Chief Ron Davis.
"The only difference that we have during Christmas is the people who have fireplaces try to stuff wrapping paper in the fireplace and burn it up," Davis said. "That's a bad thing. The ash catches a draft and may come out into the living room and we've had carpet catch on fire. Nothing major, but it is an inconvenience."
Davis said having family at the firehouse and the reception his men receive from the community make Christmas easier for those who have to work.
"You do have more holiday cheer and you have the neighbors of all the stations come by and bring goodies, cakes and candies," he said.
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