News: Christmas at the firehouse with fire fighter families
Story by Sgt. Barry St. Clair
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fire pants and boots sit quietly next to the open doors on the fire engines in the garage stalls. The sun climbs higher into the clear frosty sky while the firemen disperse to play video games in their room, conduct online searches, read a book, or watch a movie in the recliner filled living room. A call interrupts the quiet morning and the rescue truck heads north on Knox Road. The call turns out to be a false alarm: another typical Christmas morning.
Few people realize the adjustments firefighters' families make in order for their fire fighter to serve the community. Firefighters typically work 24 hour ‘deployments’ out of the fire station in which they are assigned. It is similar to a deployment; a home away from home. Firefighters have a sense camaraderie training with an others on whom their lives may depend.
Genienne Conaway, wife of Fort Bragg firefighter for eight years, knows what it is like to spend the holidays in an alternate fashion. The Conaway family had Santa visit on Christmas Eve-Eve since Firefighter Jason Conaway would be at the firehouse all day on Christmas; they are accustomed to the work schedule where Jason Conaway as at home all day one day, and gone all day the next.
“We will have two turkey dinners today,” said Genienne Conaway of her and the children. “We will have Christmas dinner here at the firehouse, and then we will head over to my parents immediately afterwards for Christmas dinner with them.”
While the turkeys finish cooking, children play catch with a football or ride scooters behind the firehouse.
“Santa brought a princess scooter for Josey Conaway, and of course Wyatt Conaway likes to do what his little sister is doing,” said Genienne Conaway.
Firefighter Matthew Pugh spent Christmas Eve with his wife and son with family in Greensboro, N. C. exchanging gifts and sharing family traditions since Pugh would be away Christmas day.
Pugh serves as a driver on the rescue truck Christmas day. The firefighters exchange assignments regularly covering the rescue truck, fire engine, and ladder truck.
“Each person is never assigned to the same vehicle so in a two week period we will work every position on all three trucks that we have here at station one,” said Pugh. “Today I’m a driver on rescue, tomorrow I may be riding backwards on pump 10, and the following day, I may be crew on the rescue truck.”
Firehouse #1 responds to medical emergencies, extractions, and other rescue calls, fire attack calls, and taller buildings on Fort Bragg with the ladder truck. Each of the seven firehouses has a different mission with two of them focusing on Simms Army Airfield and Pope Field.
Christmas Day 47 firemen spent the whole day at the seven firehouses across Fort Bragg hoping for a relaxing holiday at their ‘home’ away from home. They share common areas for cooking, training, eating and living; they even share a bedroom with someone from the alternate shift. The industrial atmosphere blended with personal effects is most apparent in the kitchen where every food item in the cupboard or refrigerator has a name and date on it.
The fire crew does not always eat together, but it is Christmas Day, and many of their family will join them today at the firehouse for a home-style Christmas dinner, even posing for a photo in typical holiday style.
By early afternoon the turkeys and ham are cooking, macaroni and cheese is in the crockpot, stuffing, and dinner rolls are in the oven. Families begin to arrive and take personal tours of the fire station. Everyone knows the crackle of the radio will put this fire crew ‘family’ gathering on hold.
“It is great to have kids here at the station again,” said Fire Chief Patrick Davenport as the families and firemen sat down for dinner. “Thank you to each fireman for your service to the Fort Bragg communities this year. I appreciate each family member who supports the fire department too.”