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First responders on hand for the holidays

Not everyone will have the opportunity to sit down with family and enjoy the Christmas holiday today.

First responders and emergency personnel around the county still have to report to work to keep the rest of the population safe during the holiday season, said Lt. Paul Dryden, a shift supervisor at the Kanawha County Metro 911 Center.

Dryden, 49, of St. Albans has worked at the center for 23 years.

"I'm used to having to work holidays," he said. "The family knows it, and we plan things around my shift."

Dryden worked the day shift on Christmas Eve, so he was able to sit down with his family for dinner. He and his family also exchanged gifts that night.

He had to be at work again today at 6 a.m., he said.

"Just because it's a holiday and Christmas, it doesn't mean that emergencies aren't going to happen," Dryden said.

Charleston Fire Department Capt. Tim Griffith agrees. Griffith, 45, of St. Albans has been with the Charleston Fire Department for 22 years.

"We get a lot of medical calls on Christmas," Griffith said.

Fire is always a threat in the city, but it also seems like they can occur more often around Christmas, he said.

"When it's cold out, it seems like we have a lot of fires on Christmas," Griffith said.

A combination of dry Christmas trees and heaters could be the cause, he added.

Both Dryden and Griffith also said they receive a lot of calls from individuals who are fighting depression over the holidays.

"We get a lot of medical calls because of people being depressed over Christmas," Griffith said.

"People may have lost someone over the holidays, and this could be their first Christmas without them," Dryden said.

Neither Dryden nor Griffith could point to any one Christmas incident over the past several years that sticks out in their minds.

Working on the Christmas holiday can be hard for some employees, Dryden said. And although he has become accustomed to working on Christmas, leaving his family is still not an easy task.

Dryden has a 15-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter. He also has a 2-month-old grandson.

"Just being away from family is hard," he said.

But it was much more difficult to deal with working on Christmas when his children were younger, Dryden added.

"When the kids were younger, it was just harder to break up the routine of Christmas," he said.

Griffith agreed that it was hard for employees to work on Christmas because they do miss their family members.

"Not seeing the family and taking part in the celebration is the hardest part for me," Griffith said.  

Firefighters work 24-hour shifts.

So the firefighters working Christmas Eve got off work at 7 a.m. today. A whole new shift came in to work a 24-hour shift starting today at 7 a.m., he said.

However, the firefighters working through the holiday often attempt to organize a Christmas dinner at the stations, Griffith said.

"Nothing is open on Christmas so you can't get food that day," he said. "But the guys try to plan ahead and bring food in."

Dryden acknowledged that there were all types of emergency personnel working on Christmas, including firefighters, medics and police officers.

"I just want to say that we really appreciate what they do," Dryden said.     

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;  


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