Red Deer Emergency Services Shift D stands ready to answer any urgent calls on Christmas Day at Fire Station 1 in the downtown.

Red Deer Emergency Services Shift D stands ready to answer any urgent calls on Christmas Day at Fire Station 1 in the downtown.

Emergency crews spend Christmas with second family

Not everyone can be at home nestled by the fire with a cup of steaming eggnog, surrounded by friends and family on Christmas Day.

Not everyone can be at home nestled by the fire with a cup of steaming eggnog, surrounded by friends and family on Christmas Day.

For the members of Shift D with Red Deer Emergency Services, working Dec. 25 is a chance to spend the holiday with their second family.

“Christmas is special. We have our families at home but we’re a family here, too, so we put on a big spread.

“The younger, new guys prepare lunch. But we all pitch in,” said Gary Engebretson, assistant platoon chief.

Rookie Parker Douglas was hard at work upstairs in the kitchen at Station 1 in downtown Red Deer on Wednesday morning after the team’s routine workout from 8 to 9 a.m.

He had brought in a handwritten note from his mother detailing how to prepare a turkey, much to the amusement of his fellow crew members.

Dressing, mashed potatoes and all the fancy fixings of a traditional holiday dinner including a counter full of sweets were also to be served around noon, depending on what calls came in.

“It’s been a quite morning,” Engebretson said.

“And it’s generally quiet on Christmas —I’ve been here for 25 years and worked a number of those Christmases — but you just never know how it will go.”

Fellow emergency crew member Lt. Steve Opp has two young children, 7 and 10, making it more difficult to be away.

“We opened a few gifts together this morning and we’ll open some more tonight when I get home. The good thing about working Christmas is it really extends the whole process,” Opp said with a chuckle.

“It’s hard as a parent to head out the door for work when everyone is having a blast and it’s a family day, especially when the kids are younger and opening gifts. We do miss being with our families but we make the best of it, try to have some fun, crack a few laughs,” added Engebretson, whose three children range in ages 16 to 20.

Cpl. Egan Henderson with Red Deer RCMP was working 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Day this year so he celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve with his wife.

He said they try to give members a bit more latitude to slip home in the morning to open presents with their children ­—­ with a radio close by of course.

About a dozen RCMP officers were on shift throughout Wednesday along with two municipal workers and one jail guard, said Henderson.

“It’s been a pretty busy morning, answering calls and attending to complaints,” he said.

After many years working in rural detachments in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, this is one of the many Christmases Henderson has spent in uniform.

He doesn’t mind, though, he said, as he knew it would be occasionally required of him when he began his career with the police force.

“It’s all part of the job.”

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