‘Three house fires one year’: Firey on Christmas duty
A BREAK from work is the backbone to Christmas for most Australians but, for firefighter Chris Dowdle, December 25 is just another day on the roster.
“It could be a flood rescue, it could be a cliff rescue, a house fire, a car accident – those things still happen,” Chris said.
“It could be argued that Christmas Day provides a greater opportunity for car accidents and mishaps with house fires.”
One year, Chris’s station responded to multiple house fires on Christmas.
“I remember one year, and this is going back decades, we had three house fires across the day and evening,” he said.
“We don’t experience those total-loss fires as much anymore because of smoke alarms and early warnings.”
During his 40 years in the fire service, Chris has worked his share of Christmases and this year he’s ready to do the same at the Brassall Fire Station.
“It’s sort of like a lucky dip. If I have to work it, I work it, if I don’t, I don’t,” he said.
“It cycles – you might work it two years in a row and then not work it for another two years. You might get the night shift one year and the day shift the other year.”
The work roster comes out a year in advance, giving Chris plenty of notice to come to terms with his fate.
“We’re celebrating the Sunday before Christmas with family because it’s the day we can all get together,” he said.
“Sometimes we get together on Christmas Day, sometimes it’s a couple of weeks before.”
And working on Christmas Day isn’t so bad.
Family members are invited to drop into the fire station for some food and festivities.
“We try to make it as normal as we can at the station. Some stations will have a big cook up for breakfast and others will have a big cook up for lunch or dinner,” Chris said.
“Normally family don’t come to the station because we’re busy but (on Christmas) they might come for hour or so. You might show the kids the fire truck, might spray some water out the back if it’s hot so they can run under the hose.”
Ultimately, the job comes first.
“All our families know that they could be just walking in the door and we could be gone for the next four or five hours on a job,” Chris said.
“It may seem harsh but, if they are here eating cake and drinking soft drink and the bell drops, we’ll be out of there in 60 seconds, the same as we would if they weren’t here.”
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