Mike Dougherty

Working in Langley on Christmas: They’re there for people Dec. 25

Some workers are on the job through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

While many working in offices, retail jobs, and manufacturing have the benefit of a Christmas off, not everyone gets a day with family.

Some local residents have spent years working on Christmas and most of them are involved in professions that involve helping others.

Langley Township firefighter Mike Dougherty has been working for 21 years, both on-call and full time.

He’s worked at least half a dozen Christmases.

This year he’ll be doing a shift on Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, then rushing home just as his kids are getting up.

“I can remember a few Christmas Eves missing family dinners due to house fires,” he said.

Those are seldom happy events for the residents.

“It’s not good,” Dougherty said. “It’s very sad.”

There are some upsides. He’s seen a difference in the way people react if you can make their day a little better around the holidays.

In most cases, those seeing firefighters or an ambulance are not having a good day to begin with.

At one house fire about 10 years ago, the family’s presents were all still inside.

“We managed to save the room that had a lot of the gifts,” Dougherty said. “The family was thankful for that.”

He’s seen too many fires that were linked to Christmas – fires sparked by decorative candles, electrical fires, and kitchen fires that began as holiday meals.

Working this Christmas Eve, Dougherty is just hoping there aren’t any major incidents that lead to him being called out the next day.

If something big happens, he’ll have to join his crew.

“There’s always that fear in the back of your mind,” he said.

Another group of workers who can expect to be called out frequently in the winter are the linesman, electricians, and technicians who keep the power on.

Aaran Ferguson is an area manager for BC Hydro’s Fraser Valley Distribution area.

“Trouble doesn’t stop for the holidays,” Ferguson noted.

He’s hoping to be home with his family this Christmas, but he has worked the holiday numerous times in the past, as he worked as an electrician and manager for BC Hydro.

This year, the area from Langley to Richmond will have six field staff working, with another three linesmen on standby. That could easily change.

“When we get hit with a windstorm or an ice storm, it’s all hands on deck,” said Ferguson.

One crew is on call to replace power poles in case someone crashes a car into them.

One difference with working on Christmas Day is that it’s quiet. With so many people off work, you don’t deal with many people at all, noted Ferguson.

When you do, they’re pretty happy to have Hydro crews show up.

“People are usually pretty grateful to see them out in the field and the lights back on,” Ferguson said.

Hospital staff including nurses, doctors, cleaners, and security have to be at work.

Some civic staff will be on call in case of bad weather, while some retail workers will be coming in for shifts.

 

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