FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- While most Families will be sitting down to a special turkey dinner, garnished with all the "fixins" this Thanksgiving, some people will be gearing up for another day of work.

Firefighters are among the many civil service careers that require a 24/7 presence. To make the holidays a little more bearable while they're away from their loved ones, Fort Drum firefighters gather and celebrate, family-style.

"When we're away from home, this is our second family," explained Capt. Thomas McDonald, supervisory captain at Station 2. "We're here for a 24-hour shift, and a lot of times we're here with the guys more than we're at home."

That is why, at each major holiday, the crew on duty will do their best to make the atmosphere as homey as possible.

There are three fire stations on post -- Stations 1 and 2, and Station 3, located at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield. The crews from Stations 1 and 2 usually get together each holiday to celebrate, and because the firefighters at the airfield can't leave the grounds, they celebrate with their own holiday meal.

McDonald said they gather together for the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they have a cookout to celebrate the 4th of July.

Although it's a holiday, and others might be relaxing, the firefighters aren't off the hook. It's business as usual, so they still must follow their daily routine -- checking the equipment and gathering their gear -- so in case of an emergency they can respond immediately.

McDonald said their meal is just like the spread someone would expect to see at a traditional holiday meal, except there's always the possibility of an interruption.

"(A fire call) is pretty much inevitable," he said. "We just have to remember to shut everything off if it's still cooking."

Other than the possibility of having to reheat their plates in the microwave, they try to keep the meal as conventional as possible.

"The holiday (meal) is just like you have at home," he said. "It's (about) the togetherness and being like a family."

This year, McDonald 's crew consists of 14 mouths that will need to be stuffed with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.

While everyone partakes in eating the meal, not all of the firefighters have the culinary skills required to prepare a successful holiday meal.

"Everybody pitches in some way or another," McDonald said. Included in the "pitching in" is cleanup and dish duty.

The consensus among the firefighters is that Thanksgiving is one of their favorite holidays celebrated at their home away from home.

And no Thanksgiving would be complete without lots of football to wash down the firefighters' meal away from home.

The firefighters don't just share holiday meals, though. They usually sit down for a big Sunday morning breakfast, and they try to eat a few "home-cooked" dinners at the stations every week.
One resident firefighter, David Paquette, is often found in the kitchen, mixing up a meal for up to 10 of his comrades.

He said he likes to cook meals, because if he doesn't, the guys eat microwave dinners and frequent fast-food joints.

"The best part about cooking dinner for the guys is getting together and seeing the camaraderie and the talk amongst the guys at the tables," he said. "Every other day we're here together -- it's our family away from home."

"It's a good to get everybody together and sitting down at the same time, just like the same values at home but it's here -- this is our extended family," McDonald added.

Page last updated Tue November 22nd, 2011 at 15:50