‘We make adjustments’: Myrtle Beach firefighters celebrate Christmas away from home

“Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. At least, it is the Christmas movie of choice for the Myrtle Beach firefighters working on Christmas Day at Station One.

“I am of the side that it is a Christmas movie,” Myrtle Beach firefighter Brendan D’Anna said.

For those who don’t know, there is a debate as to whether “Die Hard” is a holiday movie. But when asked, the firefighters standing around in their station’s kitchen all agreed it was a Christmas movie. They didn’t have a DVD copy but were hoping to stream it later following a Christmas dinner prepared by one of their own. Even though most of them wouldn’t see their family on Christmas Day, the folks working at the station were looking to make the most of it with a celebration of their own.

“Holidays are tough,” firefighter and paramedic Jack Todd said. “We work around it, we make it work at home, we make adjustments.”

This is not Todd’s first time spending Christmas in the station. He wanted to be off, but more senior firefighters got first pick. He got July 4 off, but was going to be away from his wife and kid this holiday. While he wasn’t going to be there to open presents on Christmas Day, he and his wife made alternative arrangements.

“My wife and I made a letter from Santa to tell him that presents were coming one day early, so we actually celebrated yesterday,” Todd said.

Firefighter Jack Todd stands next to a Myrtle Beach fire engine. He spent Christmas day away from his wife and son, but said he was making the most of the day. Tyler Fleming

The fire station on Christmas was quieter than a normal day, Todd said. The standards and activities typically applied to the firefighters were relaxed for the holiday. Firefighters were sitting around watching television, and D’Anna was in the kitchen cooking prime rib for the Christmas dinner later that evening. Tower the fire dog was running around the fire station, accompanied by many pets and smiling faces looking at him.

The firefighters’ families would not be coming for the celebration, as was done some years, per the preferences of the firefighters. The celebration would just be the firefighters on shift in the station on Christmas. By midday, D’Anna was about to put the prime rib into the oven to cook it for three hours.

Firefighter Brendan D’Anna posing with the prime rib he was cooking to celebrate Christmas with his fellow firefighters at Station One.

Some guys sat on couches in the day room. Todd said he saw some guys fast-forwarding through parts of a television show, but he said there wasn’t a need for their services so far on Christmas. At least at this point they didn’t have a reason to be in a hurry around the station.

Parts of the day were normal. The firefighters worked out with a special “Twelve days of Christmas” routine to start the day. There had been a few calls before The Sun News arrived, but the ambulances and firetrucks were sitting quietly in the station at the moment.

For Yousef Alkathiri, a firefighter from Saudi Arabia, Myrtle Beach is a long way from home. He was in the kitchen with D’Anna, Tower and Todd, watching the food be made. This is his first Christmas celebration in the United States. He has spent Thanksgiving in the station too, and while it’s different from back home, he said he was enjoying himself.

“The guys here, they leave their family for a special day in their culture,” he said. “But they help the city.”

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And Todd said they were still prepared to help the city, even if the calls had been slow through Tuesday afternoon.

Todd said the crews were ready to respond to a call for help, accepting that the paramedics and firefighters were away from their families to keep people safe. A moment’s notice the day could change. A late call could ruin the dinner or make it where the firefighters don’t get any sleep tonight.

“We’re primarily here for emergencies,” Todd said. “Things can go from zero to 60 real fast.”