POOLESVILLE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Santa Claus’ trip around town, in the Town of Poolesville in Upper Montgomery County, might not happen.
On Tuesday, the fire department organizing the annual tradition told FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan that even though nothing is final yet, they have to consider the health and safety of their firefighters, Santa and the public.
There are about 10 fire departments in the county that take part in the annual "Santa Ride" every year.
Jeffery Eck, a firefighter and EMT who is also on the board of directors for the volunteer fire department, said that last month the board had initially decided to cancel the entire event, citing potential COVID risks – but, just last week, the board rescinded that decision after the county’s fire Chief Scott Goldstein issued some COVID guidelines for local fire departments to follow regarding the annual Santa rides.
Some of those guidelines include no tossing of holiday candy or public handing holiday goodies to ride participants and no physical interaction between Santa, first responders and spectators.
Eck said that even with those guidelines in place, the board still has a lot to consider before they can give the event the green light.
One of their "to-do" tasks includes a thorough inspection of the fire truck that Santa will ride on, in addition to discussing how the department will keep the public safe, at a distance.
“Even though we say ‘Please everyone stay in your family unit or family group, stay by your front door and stay in your driveway or yard,’ we know it’s an exciting time,” said Eck. “People will tend to get together on the street corners, perhaps in larger groups or a neighboring family they don’t normally see, so that brings in some element of risks.”
The potential of Santa’s fire truck ride getting canceled ignited a bit of chatter on social media late Monday night.
Some people said that the ride is a long-standing tradition that is needed now more than ever during the pandemic to help "lift up people’s moods."
Meg Oberman, who has lived in Poolesville for six years, told FOX 5 that she understands the disappointment the potential cancellation could bring, but she also understands the health and safety aspect of it all especially for the first responders.
“It’s the actual risks associated with them,” said Oberman, who also happens to be a medical health professional. “Usually they are on the road for a couple of hours every night and so having more of them on one of the trucks together is a concern. Having to wear PPE, like do they have enough PPE’s? But I also understand that it’s really disappointing for a lot of our kids and adults if it doesn’t happen.”
The board of directors is expected to make a final decision on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Meanwhile, the department has been forced to cancel many of its fundraising events due to the pandemic, but volunteer firefighters are asking for anyone to make a monetary donation via this link: https://umcvfd.org