(Not) Home for the Holidays 1

Three Local First Responders on Spending the Holidays at Work

The holidays are when families can get together, watch football and eat as much as humanly possible. But that’s not the case for everyone. Many firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers are working when everyone else in town is sipping eggnog and swapping stories around the dinner table. We spoke with three of Cypress’ first responders who explain what it’s like to be on duty for the holidays.

Chris Moody, paramedic

How often do you work during the holidays?

We’re on a rotating schedule—a one day on, one day off sort of thing—so it’s luck of the draw. Last year I had off, but this year I’m working Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How does your family handle the work schedule?

Over the years, we’ve just gotten used to it. It’s not too bad, but you kind of start noticing it when you miss birthdays and holidays with the kids, so we try to have it the day before or the day after. But also, there are times when I’m just not there.

Are there any special holiday traditions at work?

We usually have a catered dinner. I think Landry’s or someone is catering this year, so that’ll be great. Last year was Chick-fil-A. The best one was barbecue. I can’t remember which place, but the Christmas the year before last it was a full barbecue spread.

Have you ever received any interesting calls for service when you’re working over Thanksgiving?

Not Thanksgiving, but I believe it was 2012 or 2013 during New Year’s Eve. The clock was striking midnight, and there was a guy who had drunk too many 40s. He had been holding a firecracker the wrong way, and it blew his whole arm off, pretty much from the lower humorous down. Luckily, he had had enough booze that he wasn’t too mad about it at the time, but I’m sure he felt it the next day.

Casey Parker, sheriff’s deputy

How does your family deal with you having to work over the holidays?

It’s a little tough. I’m not from Texas, so my family is up north and a lot of times my twin sister and her family come to visit. They’ll prepare dinner while I’m at work and just wait until 10 or 11 at night until I get home. 

Do you usually work during Thanksgiving?

I’ve actually worked the Thanksgiving shift for the last 10 years. And my husband is a police officer, so we kind of go with the flow. We’ll both get together when we can. We’re used to it.

Have you received any memorable calls on a holiday shift?

I would have to say the most interesting thing is we got a call that we thought would be a disturbance call, and we thought it would be really weird, but it was actually a family who had made us Thanksgiving dinner. They knew we only had 10 minutes to eat, so we just ate in their driveway. They had a big table set up for us.

Blake Chumley, firefighter

How does your family handle you having to work over the holidays?

They handle it pretty well. My wife is a paramedic, so sometimes she’s at work and I’m at home. My family is very understanding with the whole thing. We just take it as it comes, and there’s usually no issues. I’ve been doing this for 11 years, so we know how it works by now.

Do you have any holiday traditions at the fire station?

Usually, the fire department will supply lunch for us over the holidays, and sometimes we’ll invite families up to the station for dinner. It gives everyone time to spend a holiday meal with each other over. Sometimes we’ll have 20 or more people come.

What do you guys eat?

Usually, we’ll do a potluck situation, where our families bring different kinds of food. Sometimes we’ll cook a main course at the station.

Have you received any memorable calls while you’ve been working over Thanksgiving?

Let’s just say don’t put a frozen turkey into hot grease. The cold mixed with the hot grease can cause the grease to boil over. I haven’t seen it happen myself, but I’ve responded to calls where it’s happened before.