Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

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December 25, 2006
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Working Christmas has its rewards, pitfalls

For many Carson City residents, Christmas is another work day - or is it?

Yes and no.

For Carson City firefighters, major holidays mean no inspections or training and getting a special meal or two. Their co-workers are sort of like family.

"We are family. There's no 'sorta,'" said firefighter Bryon Hunt.

But it's still work. There were eight calls for service on Christmas Day by the early afternoon. Being a firefighter, working on holidays "is part of the deal," Hunt said. "Most of the families understand it."

Hunt's son Tyler, age 3 1/2, is still trying to catch on. He visits his dad at work once every few months, but was upset when Hunt had to leave to respond to a call for service.

"The lifestyle we live, well, you don't know any different," said Shelby Hunt, Bryon's wife and Tyler's mom. She, Tyler, and Meri and Ed Gscheidle, Bryon's parents, all came to the fire station for some holiday togetherness.

"It's always a special treat for Tyler to come visit Daddy and see the fire trucks," Shelby said.

There were even a couple of Christmas gifts for Tyler to open up in front of his dad.

Bryon has worked seven of the nine past Christmases. As a nurse for years at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Shelby had to work her share of holidays before taking a management job at St. Mary's Medical Center in Reno.

"Daddy puts out fires and Mommy takes care of sick people," Shelby said she tells Tyler who, "hopefully, will understand what we do is to help people."

"A" shift employees - Hunt and six other firefighters - worked from 8 a.m. Christmas Eve to 8 a.m. this morning at Station 1. The firefighters spend even longer stretches of time together since they started working new schedules this year: 48 hours on and 96 hours off.

The Christmas Eve menu included oyster stew, a family tradition started by relatives of Capt. Dave Miller, Hunt's supervisor.

Christmas morning was a big breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes. And Battalion Chief Vincent Pirozzi made the rounds with large tins of cookies - a tin for employees at each fire station.

"He does it every year. It's really nice of him," Miller said.

Relatives were invited to attend the prime-rib feast Christmas Day. Many, however, wait until everyone is together to truly celebrate.

This is because sometimes holidays are so busy, the firefighters don't get the chance to enjoy special meals they prepare. In those circumstances, the relatives end up eating alone anyway - and at the fire station, Miller said.

And it's why one of Miller's daughters won't open her presents "until I come home," Miller said.

"It's not so much a sacrifice for us. It's more of a sacrifice for our families," Hunt added.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Dec 26, 2006 02:16PM Published Dec 25, 2006 03:00AM Copyright 2006 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.