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Working on Christmas for some means safety for others
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Bryan County Emergency Services workers Patty Phillips, a paramedic, right and Amy Mason, an emergency medical technician, check out ornaments on the Christmas tree in the front lobby of the BCES office building in Richmond Hill. - photo by Jeff Whitte

Bryan County Emergency Services Battalion Chief Otis Willis has worked many a Christmas during his 35 years as a firefighter.
Over that time, he’s seen it all — or as close to all as one can get.
Willis is working this Christmas, too, along with dozens of public safety personnel ranging from police to paramedics from Pembroke to Richmond Hill.
Bryan County EMS alone will have four crews on duty, each working a 24-hour shift beginning at 7 a.m. Christmas.
It’s a day when the sidewalks in town tend to roll up and even traffic on the interstates slows down a bit as people get where they’re going and settle down to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.
“For the most part, Christmases are quiet,” Willis said. “But there’s a lot of potential for things to happen.”
He then rolls off a list of potential disasters ranging from trash fires in fireplaces to fires sparked by a mix of hot Christmas lights and dry trees, overloaded electrical outlets or space heaters placed to close to things that will burn.
“As long as people don’t get crazy … the majority of the time things go smooth on Christmas Day,” Willis said. “But if people behave themselves and have a good time, then I and my crew will have a good time, because we’ll have a quiet Christmas.”

The crew
Among those in Willis’ crew who will be working Christmas are paramedic Patty Phillips and EMT intermediate Amy Mason. Both are also certified firefighters.
Phillips has been on the job in Richmond Hill for 24 years, Mason, who once worked in retail, has five years under her belt. Both have worked Christmas holidays in the past, especially Phillips.
“Yes, (I’ve worked) Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day,” she said. “I’ve run good calls, bad calls, some of them you want to remember, some you don’t want to remember.”
Mason said a few calls stand out.
“It’s pretty quiet, but we’ve had a couple crazy calls,” she said. “Accidents when kids get crazy on scooters on Christmas Day, but usually nothing really bad.”
They say the most frequent calls on Christmas tend to be related to, or caused by, medical emergencies.
“People don’t want to go to the hospital during holidays,” Mason said. “So they’ll wait too long to call us, when they’re already in respiratory distress, or try to drive themselves. And sometimes accidents happen due to medical causes.”
And sometimes, someone starts a fire while trying to deep fry a turkey.
“That’s happened, too,” Willis said.

Read more in the Dec. 25 edition of the News.

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