CLARKSBURG — Many people celebrated the long Labor Day weekend by camping, traveling, visiting area festivals or spending time with family.
But the holiday is just another “work day” for many in the medical field, as well as those in food service and retail. Plus, those who are employed by the media and other occupations also have jobs to do.
Clarksburg Fire Department probationary firefighter Jamie Webb has only been in the business for about four months, but was familiar with the life of a firefighter. His father Jeff Webb was a longtime firefighter for the city.
“I remember looking at pictures of my fourth birthday party. All the kids were wearing pajamas. I found out it was because it was like 5:30 in the morning. I was just excited that dad was there,” Webb said. “My family learned to work around it because it does interfere with family time.”
Webb said he plans to make firefighting a longtime career. The Clarksburg Fire Department works 24 hours on and 24 hours off.
“A holiday is just another day. We treat it like a business day. When we get a call for help, they don’t care that it’s a holiday. They are just happy that we are there to help them,” he said.
Clarksburg Fire Lt. Walter Knight is well aware of the sacrifices that have to be made as a firefighter. He has been doing the job for 23 years.
“It’s an adjustment for those with families when it comes to birthdays and Christmas holidays. These are shifted around to accommodate when they can be home to some extent,” Knight said. “The guys cover for each other and help each other, but a holiday is just a normal business day. We have to be there when they call 911.”
He recalls having birthdays at the station in order to be able to celebrate with his family.
“For the bigger holidays, we also celebrate with this family. This is our second family,” Knight said. “My son grew up with this type of schedule, so it was all he ever knew,” Knight said.
Clarksburg Fire Lt. Ian Fitzpatrick has been on the job for 15 years, so his two sons, 4, and 2, were born into it.
“They have only known this. We have to deal with it. I’ve accepted it as part of the job,” Fitzpatrick said.
Harrison Emergency Medical Services has 24-hour shifts, 16-hour shifts and 12-hour shifts, which can be tough on a family, holiday or not.
EMT Ronald Johnson III said he got into the career to help people, but he started in physical therapy.
“You don’t get to see your family as much, but you know you’re helping others,” said Johnson, who has only been married five months. “You have to make time for both families. We will be starting a family of our own soon.
“It was the right decision. It was meant for me to do this,” he said.
Paramedic Brian Arnold makes it work after seven years with three children.
“I get the kids on the weekends. The employer worked with me. They do what they can so I can see them more,” said Arnold, who started as a volunteer 19 years ago. “I enjoy doing it. It has its ups and downs. I see everything.”
The unpredictability of the job is the toughest part, said 5-year EMT Shaine Gaines. He also is a responder with the Reynoldsville Volunteer Fire Department.
“I was at my grandfather’s home recently when I got called out as a volunteer,” Gaines said. “Holidays are hard. My mom enjoys all the family getting together. There have been several occasions when I have had to leave the dinner table.”
Paramedic Lindsay Schrader and her family moved to Weston from upstate New York about a year ago, and she has worked for Harrison EMS for one year.
“Thanksgiving is probably the worst holiday to have to work,” said Lindsay, who was a volunteer firefighter/EMT in New York where they paid for her education.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years with my sons, 17, and 11. It’s been an adjustment for everybody. My husband was in the military. Now, he and my son are volunteers at the Weston Fire Department.”