Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I shook off a few cobwebs (sans coffee) and drove to Philomath, Oregon to shoot a live-fire training drill. Philomath Fire & Rescue’s chief, Tom Phelps, was cooking French toast and scrambled eggs when I arrived, and the day only got better. By the time a stack of pizzas was delivered at lunchtime I’d shot a couple hundred frames, and the rains hadn’t developed as forecast.
If you’ve heard how glamorous firefighting is…think again. Often dangerous, it’s hard, hot, dirty work. And that’s before the clean-up.
I’m occasionally asked if I go inside to photograph during live-fire drills, and the answer is No. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is necessary for breathing, thus making direct focusing impossible. Fire gloves are thick and unwieldy. Temperatures rise to over a thousand degrees. And, if all that wasn’t enough deterrence, there’s the smoke. Gray, brown, black…the colors vary with the materials being consumed…it reduces visibility to zero.The only camera that belongs in here is a thermal imager, with a trained operator. Me? I’ve got a window view, if I’m lucky.