Southport (N.C.) Chief Greg Cumbee is proud of his department's fire station. He said the community has embraced the state-of-the-art structure, and its tall, red apparatus-bay doors have become a popular subject for photographers. (To see the station, check out December in the 2012 Station Style Calendar.)
“We get so many comments from people in the community, and all the firefighters are really impressed with those doors,” Cumbee said. “We even have wedding parties from all over the area come up and ask to have their photographs taken in front of the closed apparatus bay doors.”
Fire stations are a magnet for photographers. Their contrasting colors and shiny chrome features grab attention. Unfortunately, fire stations, their inhabitants and photographs often aren't a good mix.
In August, firefighters in Jacksonville, Fla., received reprimands for participating in a charity strip tease and being photographed in compromising positions. The off-duty firefighters failed to ask their chief for permission to wear their turnout gear during the event, a benefit for the family of a firefighter who was killed in a tree-cutting accident. But would permission really have made a difference?
Then last month, the Salisbury (N.C.) Fire Department fired two firefighters and demoted two others after an internal investigation over sexually inappropriate behavior at work. The firefighters passed around inappropriate photos of someone they all knew. This is the second such investigation at the Salisbury Fire Department in two years.
And last week, the Ruidoso (N.M.) Fire Department made the news because of racy photos taken of two young women with Ruidoso firefighters in the station. According to news reports, Fire Chief Harlan Vincent received a phone call asking if two models could have their photos taken at the fire station for their portfolios. Vincent said he was not at the station during the photo shoot, which took place last July.
After the photos appeared on one of the “model’s” Facebook pages, the community started raising questions. The photos showed the women in short clothing posing with the fire pole, washing a fire truck under the watchful eye of a firefighter, straddling a firefighter, and other suggestive poses.
The city manager, fire chief and firefighters initially dismissed the importance of the story, thinking it would blow over. But it didn’t, and the firefighters eventually received discipline.
A similar incident made the news in Los Angeles this week. Venice Fire Station No. 63 allowed a young women with a hoola hoop wander through the station and don firefighter gear for a video shoot. NBC News exposed the same station last year for allowing one of its vehicles to be used in a pornographic movie.
Firefighters and fire stations may be photogenic, but don’t abandon common sense. Just about everyone has a video or camera on their phone these days and the Internet is not always a friendly medium.
Uploading takes seconds, but repercussions can last for years.