Firefighters celebrate away from home on Thanksgiving

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2014

While families, including their own, sit down to Thanksgiving dinner together Thursday, Vicksburg’s firefighters will have their own feast at work. But when the bell rings, it’s time to drop everything and rush headlong into potential danger.

Between calls Monday, firefighters at Station 2 on Indiana Avenue sat in the hand-me-down chairs in their living room and planned out their Thanksgiving Day menu — complete with turkey, casseroles and desserts.

“A lot of us cook a good bit at home and here,” said Capt. Shane Miller said, a 23-year fire department veteran. “There’s a lot of people on the fire department who can really cook.”

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Unlike other emergency personnel in Vicksburg and Warren County, the city’s firefighters and emergency medical crews are on duty for 24-hour shifts, eating, sleeping and working at the fire station where they are assigned.

“It’s just part of the job. You come here and know you’re going to do some holidays,” Miller said.

Police, sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers all work long shifts and will be on duty Thursday, but unlike their counterparts in the fire service, they get to go home after eight or 12 hours. At any time during that 24-hour shift, the alarm might ring, and firefighters must drop what they’re doing and head to any sort of fire, crash or emergency medical call.

“The shift work that we have is definitely different from other jobs,” said Battalion Chief Craig Danczyk, a 19 year veteran of the fire department.

The fire station on Indiana is one of the busiest in the city, and it has a large second-hand dining room table that its firefighters refinished and plan to use to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

They purchased their own couches and chairs, and will buy all their own food this holiday season.

“The city doesn’t supply us any food. They only supply us a stove and pots and pans,” Lt. Donald Carter said.

“Just a few pots and pans,” Capt. Sam Smith added.

In addition to fire and rescue work, routine maintenance must be completed around the firehouse, said Smith, who has been with the fire department for 31 years.

“It’s just like any other day,” he said. “It’s always been like this.”

Thanksgivings are typically low on fire calls but full of medical and rescue calls, even in the age of turkey fryers that have caused a rash of fires across the country, Carter said.

Still the number one cause of fires in Vicksburg remains the kitchen, Danczyk said.

“A lot of our cooking fires are unattended. People leave or fall asleep while cooking,” he said.

Being at the fire station on a holiday can be tough, especially for firefighters with young children.

“You have to have an understanding family because you’re going to miss things,” Danczyk said.

On holidays, community members often bring food by the fire station, and schools send holiday cards or pictures of fire trucks they have drawn.

“We always appreciate that,” Danczyk said. “It happens a lot more around this time of year than other times.”

The camaraderie between firefighters makes the fire station a comfortable environment though.

“We’re pretty much a family away from home,” Miller said.