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Some work holiday around job schedule

December 26, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

While many people spent Christmas Day opening presents and gathering around the dinner table with loved ones, Martinsburg, W.Va., firefighters were evacuating three families from their North End apartments because of flooding hazards.

It also was business as usual for area police departments, which patrolled the streets and carried out their everyday routines.

Washington County Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Semler said the department wasn't doing anything festive Thursday to celebrate the holiday and that there weren't any complaints from other law enforcement officers who had to work.

"We're just doing our normal, usual thing," Semler said.

Hospital employees, convenience store clerks and others employed by some 24-hour businesses also punched the time clock on Christmas Day.

"The world's still got to run a little bit," said Richard Miller, owner of Miller Transportation in Hagerstown.

Miller said he works every Christmas doing dispatch and other duties so his employees can spend time with their families. The transportation service's contracted drivers also had to work so people who needed rides could get to their destinations.

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Most of those who used the service did so to visit family members or to try to find stores that were open on the holiday, Miller said.

Miller said calls for transportation were slow through midday on Christmas, but he expected business to pick up in the afternoon.

Despite the holiday, rescue personnel put the Christmas cheer aside so they were available and prepared Thursday for emergencies, Capt. Eddie Gochenour of the Martinsburg Fire Department said.

"We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," he said.

Many firefighters scheduled their Christmas Day family engagements around their work hours, celebrating on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning.

"You have to do what you have to do to make sure (people are) safe," Gochenour said.

At about 9:30 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to the Fairlawn Garden apartment complex near North Queen Street in Martinsburg for a report of runoff flowing into basements and causing electrical hazards.

Three families were moved out of their apartments and into others in the complex, Gochenour said.

"In one apartment, folks still were opening their presents," Gochenour said.

Theresa Justice arrived at work at Comfort Suites at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day. She said she worked because she was the only employee there who didn't have young children at home.

"I really don't like it, but somebody had to do it," Justice said.

She planned to celebrate the holiday Thursday night after she got off work, she said.

While this time of the week usually is busy for the Dual Highway hotel, Justice said business was slow on Christmas Day.

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