The smell of bacon hung in the air as the newest members of the Tumwater Fire Department’s A-shift cleaned up the dishes.
The crew was able to fit in a quick breakfast between aid calls Christmas morning at the department’s headquarters off Israel Road. While crew members cleaned, the rest of the firefighters discussed the best way to cook their Christmas dinner — a 14-pound prime rib.
The most important thing would be making sure the oven stays on.
“All the outlets but the refrigerator and the coffee maker shut off when the tones go off,” said Lt. Jeff Jernigan. “If you forget to switch it back on, dinner won’t be cooked; we can’t have the station burn down while we are away.”
Forgetting wouldn’t be a problem.
“When it comes to prime rib, we won’t forget,” paramedic Josh Stewart said.
The crew began working at 7:30 a.m. Christmas Day and wouldn’t be off shift until 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
It’s a long shift; they’re used to it. The same crew worked Christmas Day last year because of leap year.
“We get doubled up on the holidays,” Jernigan said. “But then we will be off two years.”
The A-shift works Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days on a cycle of two years on, two years off.
“We shoulder all of the weight,” paramedic Brian Carpenter joked.
Other than the stash of Christmas treats piled up on the counter — and the soon-to-be-eaten prime rib — the firefighters treat holidays as any other day on shift.
Morning snow in Tumwater kept them busy with a few crash responses.
“Inclement weather is when we tend to get more calls, depending on how bad it is,” Jernigan said. “On holidays, we get calls from people that probably don’t need us, but are probably just lonely; sometimes they just need a little attention.”
The firefighters’ families are used to the demanding shift schedule.
“We did our Christmas yesterday,” Stewart said. “It’s kind of just the way of life. The nice part is family can come see us, too, if we are here and not on call; my wife and daughter will probably stop by later.”
Any family member who did stop by would have plenty of food, which is why the crew extended the invitation to Tumwater police officers on duty that day, too.
“Cops have to eat, too,” Carpenter said.