COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Christmas looks different for many this year as people limit group gatherings because of the pandemic.
However, for first responders working long shifts over the holidays, COVID-19 has made it even harder to connect with their loved ones.
Traditionally, Columbia firefighters can have their families and friends visit them on Christmas, but this year that tradition was canceled.
“We would like our families to be up here, it’s hard enough being away especially for guys who have little kids at home and stuff and want to spend Christmas with their families. It’s something we have to get through because it’s a difficult time,” said firefighter Caleb Jacobs.
Jacobs is familiar with spending holidays without a loved one, as a second-generation firefighter, he says he grew up in the building where he now works.
In addition to his father being a Columbia firefighter, his brother is one as well. They are all on different shifts.
“One of us will be working Christmas every year that’s just the way it works out. We’re used to it,” Jacobs said. “Lucky I have two families: my firefighter family and my actual family,” he added.
Not even one of these first responders working from Christmas morning until the next day said they regret choosing this line of work.
In fact, engineer David China said when he woke up this morning to news of an explosion in Nashville, he was reminded of how important it is for him to stay vigilant this holiday.
“It did put me in the mind of I do live in a world and I work in a career where anything can happen in any given moment...we stay ready on a constant basis because as the old saying goes it’s better to stay ready than to get ready,” China said.
China said Midlands residents can help them and other firefighters have a better holiday by staying on guard themselves.
China warned that Christmas trees can be highly flammable if they are not watered every day, that unattended kitchen appliances can lead to a potential disaster and space heaters need to be kept away from anything flammable and turned off at night.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home equipment fires.
However, if there is a disaster Carlo Rouse says he and his team are ready to help in an instant.
“With all the training we go through, it’s kind of second nature, you don’t really think too much about it. Depending on the call, you just hop on that truck and it’s go time.”
Thankfully, Christmas afternoon was considered quiet for the downtown Columbia team. They responded to a few medical and fire alarm calls but were able to eat dinner together as their own family.