I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Administration of the IFPA to have me as a Featured Member. This is quite an honor.
After graduating from high school, I perused another career away from the Fire Service. But I still found myself constantly stopping and staring at the passing fire truck or ambulance. I bought a scanner and would listen to the Detroit Fire Department and the Suburban Metro Detroit Fire Departments constantly. One night during the summer I was listening to the scanner. Detroit had a huge, 4 alarm blaze working at 12th and Fort Street in a 5 story, vacant commercial building. On a whim, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I took a ride to this fire. We could see the fire from quite a distance. I still remember the feeling I got that night; that this was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen. Fire seemed to be jumping out of the roof of the building, illuminating the night sky.
After that fire, I started hanging around Detroit Engine 58 and Squad 6’s quarters where a cousin of mine worked. I purchased a used Pentax K-1000 with a zoom lens and a flash, and carried it with me everywhere. Devil’s Night 1994 was my first major adventure into Fire Photography. Early in the day I was at Engine 58 and took in a couple jobs; as I was gearing up for the night. I did not anticipate what was to come. It was a very busy night and I ran out of film and was not able to keep up with the amount of fire calls in the city and the amount of pictures I should have been taking. I learned a hard lesson that night: always have more film and batteries than you need.
My early years were filled with getting adjusted to action filled photography, and understanding the use of a SLR camera. As I look back on many of the photos from those years, I am reminded that with everything it takes time. Time to understand the subject you are shooting and the lack of time you have on the fireground to set up the shot you want.
During the summer of 2007 while my family and I were on the way to an outing for the day we saw a large column of smoke in the Gratiot and I-94 area on the eastside of the city. Exiting the freeway to investigate, I remembered the feelings I used to get when I would take in a job in my younger years. The spark had been relit. I started listening to Detroit again, and started to take in some local jobs.
Today I work for the Eastpointe (MI) Fire Department, a suburb just to the northeast of Detroit. On my off days I can normally be found in the center part of the city waiting on a job. I work with a Nikon D3, and D300 with a variety of different lenses. I find that when I am shooting a fire scene that I let my fire training take over and follow the bulk of the action. As cliché as this sounds, I let the camera do the work. As I work a fire scene, I move constantly to where the action is: fire fighters pulling hose, setting up the ladder truck and hooking to a hydrant.
I have been published in Firehouse Magazine, Fire Rescue Magazine, The Macomb Daily (local daily newspaper), The Grosse Pointe News (local weekly newspaper), Fire Engineering.com, and FireRescue1.com. My most memorable photo was one that appeared on the front page of the Macomb Daily September 18, 2009. It was a house explosion in St. Clair Shores (suburb north of Detroit) that took the life of an elderly woman. When I arrived the scene was chaotic. There were bricks, furniture, clothes and other belongings strewn about the front yard. The fire was blowing out the back of this destroyed ranch style dwelling. The fire was caused by a leak in the gas line connected to the dryer and was ignited when the occupant started the dryer.
I consider myself very fortunate to be part of two great communities: the firefighting community and the fire photographer community. I am also very lucky to have a very understanding family, which allows me to take in jobs at night and leave on a moment’s notice to take in the big jobs.