CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — First responders spent Christmas at work, waiting for calls they hoped would never come.
Roughly 10 firefighters were at Station 1 in the morning, celebrating the holiday with a team breakfast. Lieutenant Todd Anderson said they wanted to keep the mood fun and festive. Their gifts for each other were not exactly the traditional presents you’d find under the tree, but meaningful nonetheless.
“Guys will come in early so guys can get relieved early, so they can go home and spend time with their kids on Christmas morning and open presents and stuff like that,” Anderson said. “I had guys do that for me when my daughter was younger and that’s a tradition that continues here.”
In the season of giving, Anderson and the Champaign Fire Department are not only working to protect people, but also to lift their spirits.
Anderson was part of a group that visited children in the ER on Christmas Eve.
“It’s always sad to see kids over there, but you enjoy brightening their lives just a little,” he said.
Meanwhile, other firefighters and police helped Santa deliver $7,500 worth of gifts, gift cards and cash to a family who lost two loved ones, Leslie Gill and Ke’Zhionna Edwards, in a house fire the weekend before Christmas. The fire also destroyed all of the family’s gifts.
“What a tragedy,” Anderson said. “But the community really stepped up, and I really pray for that family and hope they’ll find some Christmas solace this morning.”
Firefighter Whitney Anderson, who also worked on Christmas, joined a team of firefighters on Sunday, installing smoke detectors in homes near the fatal fire.
“It was nice to reassure that those homes were taken care of,” she said. “In the event of a fire there, they’ve been given a little more time and notice that they need to get out.”
While first responders are at the ready, they’re hoping people stay safe this holiday.
“I want them to focus on their families and hopefully not have us be in any picture, any form or fashion in their life today,” Lt. Anderson said.