TRAVERSE CITY — Local on-duty firefighters spent their Christmas Day much like every other day: they trained, worked out and hoped beyond hope that tragedy didn’t strike.
“A boring day for us is a good day for everybody else,” said Lt. Andy Doornbos of Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department.
Holidays don’t equate to off-days for those hired to respond to emergencies, but Wednesday generally was slow at Metro Station 1 in East Bay Township and at Traverse City Fire Department’s Station 1 during the first six hours of firefighters’ holiday shifts.
Each station received one call for medical assistance. Metro firefighters — a consortium that covers Acme, East Bay and Garfield townships — responded to a person who had fallen in his home and couldn’t get up. Traverse City firefighters transported a woman to the hospital after she reported breathing difficulties.
“For the most part they are generally quiet, and you hope they stay quiet,” said Capt. Glenn Krantz of the Traverse City Fire Department. “Everything is closed and you don’t have the traffic.”
Krantz, who’s been a firefighter for 41 years, recalled a couple particularly bad Christmas Days that were marred by fires and fatalities.
“You feel it a little more during the holidays, especially Christmas-time,” Krantz said. “It makes it more personal.”
Christmas shifts aren’t uncommon, and firefighters and their families learn to adapt.
“Come to work, do what you have to do, and have fun doing it,” Krantz said. “But be serious for the serious stuff.”
Krantz is a second generation firefighter and celebrated the holiday with his family on Christmas Eve. His wife, a care coordinator at Munson Medical Center, volunteered to work Christmas Day.
Doornbos’ father and wife were both firefighters and his brother, also a firefighter, worked Christmas Eve. Santa visited his young children Christmas Eve morning and his wife will make family rounds on Christmas Day without him.
“Working on the holidays comes with the job,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong: It stinks that you are not with your family, but if not you then it’s somebody else. So you come to work and do your job.”
Ken Funk, 29, joined the Traverse City Fire Department in November. He’s a native of Hillsdale County and has been married about 18 months; he last saw his wife about a week ago and will spend Christmas away from her.
“It’s tough. I come from a close family,” Funk said. “But I feel very fortunate, very blessed to get this opportunity. Full-time jobs are pretty slim.”
Funk suggested there are worse days to work than Christmas. He missed his first wedding anniversary because of job responsibilities.
“It’s a lot easier to work Christmas than it is to work your first anniversary,” he said. “But this is what I want to do, this is what I’ve worked so hard to do, and that is why she is so understanding. I smile all day, I am so happy to be here.”