Team Whiteman Firefighters - Working around the holiday clock

Airman 1st Class Cory Barrett, Team Whiteman firefighter, suits up during a bunker exercise drill Dec. 7 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Airmen from Whiteman AFB Fire Emergency Services works in two separate shifts to keep the station manned and mission ready 24/7, 365 days a year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Cory Barrett, Team Whiteman firefighter, suits up during a bunker exercise drill Dec. 7 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Airmen from Whiteman AFB Fire Emergency Services works in two separate shifts to keep the station manned and mission ready 24/7, 365 days a year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Kyle Lawall and Staff Sgt. James Barding, Team Whiteman firefighters, perform a vehicle inspection Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Whiteman AFB Fire Emergency Services works all day, every day to protect Team Whiteman and provide assistance in the surrounding communities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Kyle Lawall and Staff Sgt. James Barding, Team Whiteman firefighters, perform a vehicle inspection Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Whiteman AFB Fire Emergency Services works all day, every day to protect Team Whiteman and provide assistance in the surrounding communities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

Airman 1st Class William Lawrence, Team Whiteman firefighter, climbs the back of a tanker to simulate a water re-supply operation Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The team is required to conduct upgrade training and exercises throughout the year to keep their skills up-to-date and mission-ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

Airman 1st Class William Lawrence, Team Whiteman firefighter, climbs the back of a tanker to simulate a water re-supply operation Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The team is required to conduct upgrade training and exercises throughout the year to keep their skills up-to-date and mission-ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/Heidi Hunt) (Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- It's Dec. 25 and everyone is enjoying a festive holiday when, suddenly, thick smoke fills the home and live-giving oxygen seems to nearly disappear.

Someone has left Christmas dinner on the stove unattended and a fiery blaze has erupted.

An alarm sounds at the base's fire department and members of the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire Emergency Services rush to the scene.

They are no strangers to working through the holidays.

Even though it is the holidays, that does not mean issues will not arise, said Tech. Sgt. Cory McGee, Whiteman Fire Station crew chief.

"The mission never stops and it is imperative to be on shift because we have a huge housing community and our job is to protect the people that live and work on base and the surrounding area," McGee said. "It is part of the job and is what we signed up for."

Whiteman firefighters work 24 hours on and 24 hours off, rotating between two shifts.

"Fire Emergency Services never take a day off," said Senior Airman Jordan Herrick, Whiteman firefighter.

"Our shifts balance out. If we work Christmas Day, then we can celebrate with our families either Christmas Eve or earlier in the morning before we come to work on Christmas Day. During the [holiday] season, our families understand our shifts, as well as what we go through, and are supportive."

McGee said he is celebrating Christmas with his family on Christmas Eve because he is scheduled to work Christmas Day.

"My family and I will open presents, have dinner and enjoy our time together, even if it's not at the time when many are traditionally celebrating," McGee said.

While many on the team look forward to spending time with their immediate family, they consider their coworkers as something of a second family, as well.

"We are a unique business center -- we work and live with each other," McGee said. "This is my home away- from-home and these people are like my second family. We are on-duty for 24 hours at a time, so you live with them just as much as your own family."

The firefighter team celebrates together, and hosts an annual Christmas party and gift exchange.

"We try to get people in the Christmas spirit, come together and get to know one another," Herrick said. "We do work together as a family to get the job done in a timely manner so we can enjoy time together."

"Unfortunately, the holidays are one of our busiest times of year for fire services nationwide," McGee said. "Real Christmas trees decorated with lights, and unattended cooking, pose a danger for fires and the possible loss of life and property. We want Team Whiteman to stay safe and use caution through the holiday season."

(Editor's Note: This feature is part of a five-part series entitled "Working through the Holidays," highlighting Whiteman Airmen and units who continue to perform the mission throughout the holiday season).