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Firefighters mix fun with work on Thanksgiving
'Dirty Dozen' safely fry 2 turkeys
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Gainesville firefighters enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal at the department’s new Station 1 at the public safety complex. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The “Dirty Dozen” sat down to eat Thursday, fitting in a bite of Thanksgiving between medical and fire calls.

The 12 firefighters piled up plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie as they cracked inside jokes.

Gainesville Fire Department’s Shift A, who travel together as the “Dirty Dozen,” worked the holiday in their new Fire Station 1 off Queen City Parkway.

“Shifts work every three days, and the funny thing is, if you count them out, holidays fall on multiples of three,” said Capt. Eric Rockfeld, head of the group on Thursday. “One shift works that all year — Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year.”

The fire department’s day was relatively quiet leading up to the 1 p.m. eat time. Most Thanksgiving calls are medical, Rockfeld said.

“One call was a guy who burned his hand,” he said. “We also address car wrecks, space heaters, the snake in the house or the cat in the sewer. If it’s not law enforcement, the fire department gets it because there’s nowhere else for 911 calls to go.”

The group cooked up three turkeys for the big day, including two deep-fried turkeys. Deep fryers are the cause of most emergency calls on Thanksgiving, said Kris Dale.

“People don’t thaw out the turkeys properly and then put them in the fryer, which makes it explode,” he said as he timed the cooking of their second turkey outside the fire station.

Upstairs, the others moved around the new, large kitchen, which boasts two ovens, two microwaves, two dishwashers and a fridge and pantry for each of the three shifts.

“It feels like Waffle House in here,” said Jay Grizzle as he slapped a bell above the stove. “Order up.”

Firefighters moved their files and personal belongings into the new facility last week and are still unpacking boxes and getting used to the dorm beds they use while on-duty.

The bonding was evident as the men joked about their mustaches for “No-shave November.”

“Someone told us that one of the guys looks awful with a mustache, so a few of us decided to grow ours out and see what they look like,” Dale said. “It’s definitely coming off Dec. 1.”

Taking their first bites, the guys started talking about what to do next while waiting for calls: take a turkey snooze or jump on the treadmill.

“You know we’ve got to work all of this off,” Grizzle said.

And the easiest way they’ll get downstairs to the fire trucks after a big meal? The twisting red slide that stands in place of the traditional fire pole, which is now prohibited because of liability concerns.

“I think this is the first time all 12 of us have been in the same room in this building,” Rockfeld said with a smile.

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