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'Firehouse family' | Local first responders celebrate Thanksgiving at work, ready to answer calls for help

While many workplaces stayed empty on Thanksgiving, first responders kept our hospitals, police departments, dispatch centers and firehouses staffed up.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — “You come to work for the fire department, EMS, police, our dispatchers, even the folks who work at our hospitals, they have to be there 24/7," said Capt. Jon Rigolo with the Virginia Beach Fire Department. 

Always on the ready, first responders answer calls for help year-round — even on Thanksgiving Day.

"There's already been a couple of small kitchen fires throughout the city. Nothing major going on. A number of EMS calls, sort of a routine day," said Capt. Rigolo.

Working on holidays; it's something that they understand comes with the job. 

"But we adapt. You either do your holiday before or after," said Capt. Rigolo. "Your children understand. Your family understands, because they realize you have to be there."

Credit: Angelique Arintok, 13News Now

And it's also something that brings these first responders tremendous pride.

"It really is a calling. It's something that we're proud to do. It's more than just a job to us, is what I'm trying to say," said Nathan Diffley, a master firefighter and paramedic. 

So even at work, it's a family.

"We call it the firehouse family," said Capt. Rigolo.

For Thanksgiving dinner, Station 7 did it potluck style.

"It's just that opportunity to spend more time together and we all enjoy that," said Diffley. 

And although the pandemic prevented their relatives from sitting down at this table with them, they are thankful nonetheless.

"Some will stop by to say 'hi' or drop something off, but for the most part — it's just the firefighters, so it's just our firefighter family who is here," said Capt. Rigolo. 

The same crew 13News Now spoke with at Station 7 will also spend Christmas Eve and New Year's Day on the job.