Lt. Scott Peters of the Zionsville Fire Dept. was not home for Christmas this year. Because firefighters typically work a 24-hour-on, 48-hour-off schedule, many are not able to be home on Christmas Day and must make alternate arrangements with loved ones so that they are still able to celebrate with them.
Peters said his schedule can make planning for holidays rather tricky, as he has seven children and a large extended family that he and his wife and children often celebrate with.
“There’s some rearranging of schedules even for things such as cooking dinner,” Peters said. “For instance, I was asked to make the Thanksgiving turkey this year. I had to prep that around shift days to get it ready several days ahead of time.”
Peters said during the 14 years he has been with the fire department, this year marks only the third time he’d been scheduled to work Christmas Day.
Although his kids — who range in age from 3 to 15 — are used to his alternative work schedule, Peters said it is still difficult to not be with family on the holidays.
“For them, Christmas is not so much about opening gifts and all that,” Peters said. “We do a lot of fun traditions, like we stay in our pajamas all day and we don’t go visit family on Christmas Day. We’re just at home and it’s just us. We open some presents, make a big breakfast casserole or pancakes and just kind of hang out and stay in our pajamas all day, eating and playing and watching Christmas movies and just being a family. So, we can really do that on any day of the week.”
Peters said his family still did all those things and opened gifts on Christmas Day when he was at the fire station, but they also planned to chat with him over a video call and potentially visit him at the station.
The next day, they planned to do all the same activities again with Peters at home – only without the presents.
“I think it’s hard for us, because they like things the way they like them,” Peters said. “For instance, they like the way I make the pancakes on Christmas morning. When I’m not there on a holiday to make them, they’re like, ‘Oh, I kind of miss Dad’s pancakes.’ But their mom does a great job when I’m not there and she makes it go so much smoother. There’s a great support system and there’s effort from everybody.”
Whether he’s working or not, Peters said he still enjoys Christmas Day,either at the station with the other firefighters or at home with his family. When he comes home the morning of Dec. 26, he said he gets a glimpse of his family’s activities from the previous day before they all wake up.
“I’ll roll in at about 7:30 in the morning and the house will be an utter mess with new toys laying around everywhere and games and all that kind of stuff,” Peters said. “I’ll just sit there for a little while in the quiet and just look and see what the kids enjoyed and what they played with. Then they’ll slowly trickle down and give me ‘good morning’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ hugs for the next hour, then we’ll just take off like it’s Christmas Day again.”