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Holiday traditions build brotherhood at Statesboro Fire Department


November 30, 2017

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If you ask anyone about what a firefighter is, they’ll likely give you the same answer: a hero. Firefighters put their lives on the line day in and day out, so that the average citizen can rest easy.

Holidays are no exception. When most people are gathering with their families around the holiday table or opening gifts this Christmas, firefighters will be at the station, on the ready, in case they are toned out to a fire or some other emergency.

So it’s important for firefighters to have some holiday traditions of their own – special things that make their time at the fire house better and their holiday brighter.

According to Statesboro Fire Department Chief Tim Grams, the SFD goes into holiday mode toward the end of November, in order to facilitate a festive mood and the camaraderie the department needs.

“They still do their daily duties, and they still do their training, but we like for them to decompress and reflect and just kind of enjoy being together,” he said.

“During the month of December, we still do trucks and we still do calls, but we do slow it down. We still do what we have to do, but it’s a little bit more relaxed,” added Assistant Chief Bobby Duggar. He said the department works to finish projects and training by the end of October, so that they can slow it down during the holiday season.

“We just like to let the guys decompress a little,” Grams said, “and just enjoy the job. Because I think sometimes that gets lost, especially when we’re constantly, ‘hey, we gotta get this, we gotta get this, we gotta get this.’”

Battalion Chief Steve Morris agrees.

“We use this time to build camaraderie and build the brotherhood, just enjoy the fellowship that comes with the job,” he said.

Each shift has its own personality, Duggar said, and each has developed its own holiday traditions. Each shift does a gift swap, and depending on that personality, the gifts might be serious or comical.

“Some shifts are pretty straightforward and they get the nice presents, and some shifts are the comedians, so they are the ones that get the gag gifts,” he said.

Each shift also cooks food or brings in treats from home, many bringing in that special traditional food that screams “holiday” for them. The firefighters also are able to hang out together and watch holiday movies, play games and enjoy Christmas music.

Battalion Chief Jason Baker, A shift, says his crew has a lot of guys that are “really big into Christmas.”

“We do a lot of decorating. They’re chomping at the bit to get the stuff out of the attic and decorate, and put up trees and stuff like that,” he said. The guys do at the fire station what they’d do at home during the holidays, he added.

“Pretty much what we’d do at home, just, we do it here,” he said. “We’re a family. We spend a third of our lives here, and we’re just like any other family. We have good days and we have days we don’t necessarily want to see anybody, just like when we’re at home. For us, it’s a kind of sense of normalcy. It’s kind of a way for us to feel kind of like you are home, with the big meal.”

That big meal often means that wives and children join their firefighters at the station, making it a true family event.

The firefighters look out for each other in other ways as well. The guys who have children at home but have to work on Christmas morning are often relieved by those who don’t have kids so that they can go home, at least for a few hours, to be with their families on Christmas day.

During the holidays, battalion chiefs also make time to spend with the guys, Duggar said.

“It just makes a difference. With the uniforms and the rank, these guys focus on that a lot and they don’t see the human side of us. We know what it is to be a fireman and to be away from your family,” he said.

Another tradition that has benefited not just the department, but the community as well is the department’s participation in the annual Chili Town event, held as part of F1RST Friday each December. Local chefs prepare their best chili recipes and judges pick the best, and local residents can choose their favorite as well. Everybody gets to sample the chili and it’s a great night of fun, food and frolic.

Grams said the SFD has a little fun with the event.

“We make a little side pot. It’s pretty spicy. We don’t make them, but we encourage all the new folks to take a spoonful and that’s pretty funny. Most of them willingly partake,” he said, laughing.

All the tradition, holiday or otherwise, helps to build that all-important brotherhood that is vital in the department, Grams said.

“It’s not an 8 to 5 job. The situations we put them in, in fires, there has to be that trust and that bond. If we didn’t take some time to develop that outside of working together, I just don’t know if it would have that same effect. So we take that opportunity to really foster and nurture that family, because it’s not just family,” he said. “It’s just different in the fire service. Especially here.”


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