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Working on Christmas Day: ‘Just part of the deal’

n Eight firemen at Fire Station 126 started a 24-hour shift Christmas morning

Posted: December 25, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Fireman Rich Hall makes sure a chain saw works properly during a routine check on Friday.

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The smell of bacon hung in the air at Fire Station 126 on Christmas morning.  Near the kitchen a Christmas tree decorated with fire hydrants, plastic fireman helmets and Smokey the Bear ornaments set the holiday mood.  

Right of the tree, a big screen television was playing “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. Clark Griswold was on a 24 hour loop.

“You either have to watch ‘Christmas Vacation’ or a ‘Christmas Story’,” said firefighter Rich Adam. “They’re classics.”

The movies, food and decorations are a way for the eight firefighters who work on Christmas to enjoy the holiday while they’re stuck working, said Captain Mark Savage. The Christmas shift began at 8 a.m. Friday morning and ends 24 hours later, he said.

“You don’t close a fire station just because it’s Christmas,” Savage said. “Working on the holidays is just part of the deal.”

The majority of firefighters either have to work on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day each year, he said.

Savage said he spent Christmas Eve with his extended family in Orange County. Juggling schedules to get the entire family together is even more difficult because his identical twin brother is a fire captain in Culver City.   

He and his wife woke their three children at 4 a.m. so they could open gifts as a family before leaving for the fire station, he said.  

Only the fire department, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station and some convenience stores were open on Christmas. The city’s bus stops were deserted. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the only days of the year the city doesn’t run bus service, said bus driver and instructor Ron Roxas.     

Soledad Canyon Road, usually loaded with heavy morning traffic, looked more like a ghost town at 9 a.m.

Savage said Christmas had been slow — as of 1 p.m. they had only responded to two service calls: They put out an oven fire and helped a person a caller said was bleeding and vomiting.

“You don’t want anything bad to happen to folks on Christmas,” Savage said. “We want to make sure people get through the holiday safely.”

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