Everyone has seen the television episodes and the movies, where somebody goes overboard with Christmas lights and sets their house on fire.



Or maybe, this time, it's a holiday ham or turkey left in the oven for too long.

Everyone has seen the television episodes and the movies, where somebody goes overboard with Christmas lights and sets their house on fire.

Or maybe, this time, it's a holiday ham or turkey left in the oven for too long.

For either reason, the day shift of the Pittsburg Fire Department went on with business as usual on Christmas day, manning the station in case something went wrong involving a heater and a new wool sweater with reindeer on it.

"Sure, we've had our share of fires on or around Christmas," said Capt. John Rhuems. "You don't see as many fires with tree lights as you used to because the trees are artificial. But the weather is usually pretty cold, which means that the heaters are on, and there's some risk there."

The day does differ from other work days in that the firefighters at Pittsburg Fire Station No. 1 host firefighters from Pittsburg's other two fire stations in the early afternoon for a Christmas dinner.
That's where the thick, fire-resistant gloves become heating pads, and the only high-digit temperature is in the oven where they ready twice-baked potatoes.

"I've been here for 26 years," Rhuems said. "And it's been going on since before I was here. It's nice to get together like this, and it builds camaraderie."

Nine firefighters participated in the dinner Thursday. Each shift typically has 11 men, but two took the holiday off. All of the working firefighters chip their money into a pool, which is then used to pick up the groceries for the meal. Rhuems said there were some years where firefighters just bought the ham or turkey, with the firefighters' families bringing in all the side dishes.

But Thursday, the firefighters fended for themselves, fixing ham, twice-baked potatoes, rolls and creamed corn.

"Some of these cooks are pretty good," Rhuems said. "And there are some who think that they're pretty good. Some think they're fry chefs and others think they're gourmet chefs."

"We have one guy who thinks he's like that," said firefighter Tom Vacca. "He puts on his apron, and it's voila."

The event is one of several the firefighters do throughout the holiday season, including when they utilize their charity fund together to purchase toys for less-fortunate children.

But, as with all of the events they do, they have to keep a pretty close ear to the scanner.

"If that tone goes off, all this stops," Rhuems said. "And we're going. We're still on duty.”

"It's usually a nice day to eat and relax," Rhuems said. "Hopefully, everybody is safe, and nothing happens."