Meet the heroic firefighters who shelve Christmas plans with their young families

Neal Mills and Ben Whale with a fire engine

Suffolk firefighters Ben Whale and Neal Mills know exactly what it's like working over the festive period - Credit: Neal Mills/Ben Whale/Nick Butcher

When heroic firefighters, selfless nurses and patient carers step out to work on Christmas Day it is not only them making a sacrifice on our behalf, but often their young families too.

Firefighters Ben Whale and Neal Mills have worked many festive shifts over the years and say it becomes a way of life, but acknowledge how hard it is for their families to miss out on regular celebrations with them.

Mr Whale, from Lowestoft South fire station, said: "It becomes normal for me and everyone in the emergency service.

"When they sign up to the job, they accept that is part of their new normality, birthdays, Christmas, public holidays, things like that. There is an element that you might not have to work one year but you’ll have to work the next year.

Ben Whale firefighter Lowestoft station

Ben Whale, from Lowestoft South Station, said that working at Christmas is "just how it is." - Credit: Ben Whale

"Your family adapt with you, so it is difficult, but it becomes a bit like normality really.”

Mr Mills, from Princes Street station in Ipswich added: "I have a young family, it can be very hard to leave them on Christmas day, the children might not understand why I’ve got to go to work.

"It’s a sacrifice for you, but it’s also a sacrifice for your family, because obviously it’s a time where families want to be together."

Neal Mills, firefighter, Princes Street Station

Neal Mills, from Princes Street Station, said that working during the festive period is "a sacrifice that I was willing to make." - Credit: Neal Mills

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It can be particularly hard when they are called to major fires or fatal crashes on Christmas day. 

Mr Mills said: "At Christmas when you see a family’s home ruined and you see the children and then their ruined presents, it can be quite heart-breaking."

Both firefighters said they try to bring some festive home comforts to work over Christmas

Mr Whale said: "When we work Christmas day/night we will just all bring in little bits of party food and stuff like that, we’ll just have a little spread like that as a crew together on Christmas day/night."

Mr Mills added: "We try to make it a relaxed environment, we’ll all bring little bits of food in, leftover dinners and stuff and we’ll all eat together.

“If a call out comes this all goes up in the air though.” 

Cabinet member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities, Councillor Andrew Reid, said: "I am immensely grateful to every firefighter and member of fire service staff who will be working over the Christmas period.

"They selflessly sacrifice time with their families and loved ones to protect Suffolk residents in the event of an emergency."

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