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FARMINGTON – As families around San Juan County gathered for a Thanksgiving meal Thursday, the staff at local emergency response agencies continued to work to ensure the safety of the community.

Area paramedics, law enforcement personnel and firefighters said they have adjusted to working holidays and find ways to celebrate as they remain at their post in case an emergency situations arises.

The firefighters who staff the Farmington Fire Department Station 1 were still unpacking from moving into their new building at 301 N. Auburn Ave. earlier this week.

Capt. Mike Romine said the firefighters working their 24-hour shift sometime celebrate holidays the day before or after, depending on their schedule.

“You’re expected to work, and we don’t have a problem with that,” Romine said.

Firefighters spent Thursday morning and afternoon preparing a meal for their families at the station in their new kitchen and dining area upstairs.

Lt. Cameron Kautzman said he had a meal Wednesday night with his family, and some family members would join him Thursday for the meal at the fire station. He said the firefighters have adjusted to working holidays, but it can be hard on those with toddlers and young children.

Both Kautzman and Romine said they were thankful for their job and a community that supports them.

“We have a wonderful job and a community that appreciates what we do,” Kautzman said. “It really is the best job in the world. It’s hard to describe why you like it so much until you are here.”

Staff members at the San Juan County Communications Authority and San Juan Regional Medical Center have learned to adjust their holiday celebrations, too.

Adam Houston, county dispatch shift supervisor, said the center requires 24-hour staffing to field calls from around the area. Houston was working a day shift Thursday and celebrated with a family meal on Wednesday evening. Staff members at the dispatch center also were having a Thanksgiving potluck where they would squeeze in a plate of food between calls, Houston said.

Paramedic Rita Groblebe said she and other emergency medical technicians were invited to the employee meal at the San Juan Regional Medical Center employee dining room.

The kitchen staff started working about 5 a.m. Thursday to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for about 200 hospital employees, according to cook Cecilia Washburn. The hospital staff dined on roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn chowder, fresh rolls and a variety of deserts.

Groblebe said she was thankful for the 25 years she has spent as a paramedic and she plans to retire in January 2016. She said being a paramedic has allowed her to make a difference in the lives of many people throughout the years.

“It’s the worst day of peoples’ lives, and we are here to make a difference,” Groblebe said. “Even if it’s just to hold their hand on the way in, if we can’t do anything more than that, we can be there for them.”

While she was working Thanksgiving this year, Groblebe said she will be the one preparing the turkey for her family’s meal next year.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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