My eyes ripped open and light slammed my retinas as the bell sounded the alarm.
I quickly sat up, twisted and slid my feet into the shoes waiting for them on the side of the bed. This wasn’t my first rodeo and I never slept very deeply here. Having spent the previous summer and fall with Engine 50 on the East side and Engine 40 on the West side, I was well aware of the drill. The fire crew was already moving toward the stairs.
I wet my contacts with eye drops as I worked my way to the stairs. 60 seconds to exit. The familiar smokey smell of the Engine house met me on the way. Now at the bottom of the stairs and winding through a mix of smoke stained bunker gear and firefighters climbing onto the rigs, I grabbed my Glidecam vest off the desk staged near the engine.
Get it on – GO.
The Engines Lights snap on.
Coat next. Check. Glidecam arm… done.
Ladder 23 is already rolling out behind me.
Camera and gimbal post. GO GO.
The overhead door is halfway up. Doors are beginning to close on the rigs. I climb into Engine 50 and step over a firefighter already buttoning his coat.
“Box alarm. Fire reported in a dwelling. Engine 50, Ladder 23, Squad 6, Chief 9.” crackled over the radio.
“Engine 50 enroute” I hear the captain say as I power on camera, brace myself against the seat with my leg and work my lens cap off. Sirens on, we pull out into the cold darkness.
“Engine 50’s enroute” The operator calls back over the radio. Every call made over the radio traffic of the DFD is repeated by dispatch to ensure clarity of communication. A very effective means of communication.
Getting the shot is never easy at night in a moving fire engine. I bobble around and struggle to hold position. The FEO (Field Engine Operator / Driver) pulls the chain to sound the horn as we round the corner and head north. We aren’t a block out and the two veteran firefighters on either side of me are already hooding up and wiggling into their tanks which ride like backpacks inside the seat back. Sounds like this one is going to be hot.
…And so my year went on the front lines with the Detroit Fire Department.
The film BURN: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle To Save Detroit created by producer/director team Brenna Sanchez and Tom Putnam is an award winning feature documentary that delved deep into the lives of Detroit firefighters, the struggles and battles they face in the wake of declining budgets and increasing fire load.
- Contour HD Helmet Cams
- Canon 5D Mark ii Cameras
- Zeiss Distagon Lenses
- Canon Lenses
- Pocket Dolly
- Lite Panel LED
- Alzo Light Kit
- Redroc Micro
- Small HD Monitors
- Sound Devices Mixers
- Lectrosonics Wireless
- Senheisser Booms
If you would like to check it out, you can watch the entire film here: BURN