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Why holidays aren’t firefighters’ favorite time of the year

It’s hard for us to celebrate merrily when we have just seen the tears of a child that we extricated from a vehicle collision


It’s hard for us to celebrate merrily when we have just seen the tears of a child that we extricated from a vehicle collision.


By Mick Mayers

While it is said that the holidays are stressful in general, for firefighters and EMS personnel they can be particularly challenging.

During these weeks, there are alarms that last for years, even decades, in our memories. In some cases, it is simply the tie-in to what should be a joyous occasion that turns tragic, as we find when alcohol and driving are mixed.

I don’t think there has been a fire-free Christmas season in my career. Cooking accidents and electrical hazards cause problems, and at least every year someone carelessly discards their fireplace ashes, setting their home ablaze. By the time we arrive, the damage is already well underway and all we can do is keep things from getting worse. People could do a lot better to prevent these kinds of events from happening, just by being a little more careful about the things they do. Some years are better than others, but in surveying the scene afterwards and seeing presents and decorations among the charred rubble, it always occurs to me that for this family, their holiday is going to be a sad one.

Winter weather lends to conditions that precipitate the misuse of heating equipment too near combustibles like curtains or the Christmas tree. And ice is sometimes a factor in severe falls or terrible highway accidents. While the situation is very much a tragedy for those directly affected, a certain amount of that sadness affects the responders as well. It’s a little hard for us to celebrate merrily when we have just seen the tears of a child that we extricated from a vehicle collision, their parents critically injured in the front seats of the car.

To properly celebrate what should be a happy time of the year, I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that the best present you can get for us would be to be more aware of the possibility of misfortune and be more mindful of what you are doing.

  • Keep heating devices away from things that easily burn.

  • Don‘t overload your electrical system.

  • Pay attention to winter road conditions.

  • Buckle up.

These are just a few suggestions that could help keep you safe, but also give us a more peaceful holiday ourselves.

When catastrophe strikes, we will always be there for you, but better yet, we would rather you didn’t need us. There is no good reason to disregard advice that could not only save you from heartbreak, but could save your life. Your bad fortune doesn’t just affect you; it affects your loved ones, your friends and your community. Slow down for a moment, enjoy the festivities, be thankful for what you hold dear and be more careful. And have a great holiday season, no matter what you happen to be celebrating!

This article, originally published on May 10, 2014, has been updated

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.