Firefighters, others work through holiday

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson International House of Pancakes manager Joan Wilson, front, helps cook Rusty Beevers prepare meals Saturday afternoon. The two said they were working their second Christmas with the restaurant and customer flow was consistent throughout the day.

Kevin Wilson

The dry roads and mid-40s temperatures made it clear there would be no white Christmas for Clovis.

But somewhat full parking lots scattered throughout the sea of empty ones made it clear that it was a working Christmas for at least parts of the city.

“You’ve got to pay the bills,” Luke Miller said as he sat in the foyer of Clovis’ International House of Pancakes.

Miller had just finished an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. cooking shift at the chain restaurant and was waiting on a to-go order.

Meanwhile, across town, city employees were cooking up a meal as well, as the parking lot was packed in the Clovis Fire Department.

Only a few rooms were lit as firefighters gathered around the kitchen. In a nearby living room a DVD played “She’s Out of My League” as Lt. Joel Gershon sliced up a ham.

A third-generation firefighter, Gershon is part of the “C” shift. There are three shifts, and Christmas day duty rotates on a C-B-B-A basis every four years. Gershon has moved through shifts over his eight years, and this is his third Christmas doing a 24-hour shift.

Firemen working from 7 a.m. Christmas morning to 7 a.m. Boxing Day do get holiday pay for 11.2 hours, and are off the standard 48 hours following as part of a “24 on, 48 off” structure that is common within the field.

On Christmas, employees from all five stations get together at the main station for a potluck dinner. They’re still responsible for all fire calls, but Saturday had been average with a few calls and a patient transfer.

“Every day is hit and miss,” Gershon said. “You can get 20 calls or you can get one call.”

With family members joining them, about 30 were expected for the dinner. More could come later, as the department told the Chamber of Commerce it could host 10 single airmen for their holiday feast.

“This year, we over-prepared on food, hoping someone will take us up on our offer,” Gershon said.

There was only regular pay at the IHOP, but Miller said it wasn’t all that bad to work because he’s still new to Clovis and doesn’t have a huge circle of friends with whom to spend the holidays.

He moved to the area three weeks ago from Knoxville, Tenn., and worked a few years at an IHOP there — including Christmas and other holidays. As long as people didn’t remind him how inconvenient it was to work on a holiday, he could pretend it was just another Saturday.

He said the Clovis location got busy around 9:30 a.m., after most people had unwrapped their gifts and wanted to get out of the house.

“It was pretty consistent,” Miller said. “It stayed busy up to 1:30, 2 o’clock. I actually expected it to come in waves, but it was pretty consistent.”