Just because it is Dec. 25 does not mean crime stops, fires do not start, or people do not have to go to the hospital. There is a workforce the community relies on that had to find a way to celebrate the holiday by working around employment obligations.
‘Part of the job’
At 7 a.m. Christmas Day, Mark Schrieber left his wife in bed and headed to work in the emergency room at Medical College of Georgia Hospital. As a manager, his job is to make sure the emergency room moves smoothly and employees are where they are supposed to be.
He said Christmas morning was a little slower than normal, although they did have a woman come in who had fallen off her child’s new four-wheeler.
He remembered one Christmas when they had a CPR patient that they worked on for two hours. Another year a woman called an ambulance for an ingrown toe-nail.
“Getting into this field, you know you will be working holidays,” Schrieber said. “It’s just part of the job.”
Schrieber said he took the morning shift because the nurse who is replacing him at 7 p.m. has small children, so Schrieber celebrated in the evening with his family.
“They might start eating before I get home,” he said. “But they’ll wait for me for the rest of it.”
A busy time
Augusta Fire Department’s Shift C got the bad luck this year. They worked the Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Next year, typically, they would rotate off most of the holidays, but because it’s a leap year, they will be on again.
Engine 3 and Truck 1 come out of the station on Reynolds Street. By 3 p.m. Christmas Day, they had already answered three calls. In between those, they enjoyed a Christmas meal prepared by Lt. Thomas Stokes and watched some NBA games.
The men said they see a lot of cooking fires, car accidents and space heater-related fires this time of year. The accidents are typically alcohol-related or weather-related. There are also more homeless people who start fires to stay warm.
Firefighter Matt Rhoden remembered three years ago on Christmas when they had two structure fires within a block of each other on Sandbar Ferry Road.
“This time of year is busy,” said Lt. William Dickerson. “There are more incidents when more people are home.”
Firefighters work a 24-hour shift, from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. Most of the men said they celebrated Christmas the night before.
When to sleep?
Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy Robert Lewis’ 9-month-old son celebrated his first Christmas this year. Lewis had worked his normal 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift Saturday night into Sunday morning. When he got home, his son was ready for Christmas.
He spent the morning traveling between the two grandparents’ houses, and before he knew it, it was time for his Christmas shift.
Lt. Robbie Silas has 17- and 19-year-old children, so he was granted a little sleep when he came home Sunday morning. But the day was still about family before he had to return to work Sunday.
The way sheriff’s deputies work holidays depends on the shift, similar to the firefighters. This year, the same people worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve included a double DUI accident on Walton Way that sent both drivers to the hospital, one of whom was still in a coma Sunday night.
The deputies do not get holiday pay; instead they get an extra day off.