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This Probably Isn’t the Best Idea. Firefighters Perception Vs. Reality in Social Media

I get it, some of us love being photographed while on the job. Hell, deep down inside we all would probably love to be on the cover of a magazine in a great photo while making a rescue off the balcony of a 3rd story apartment while flames lick over our heads…but that probably won’t happen. If you are lucky enough to be a firefighter in an area where there are fire buffs, you have a greater opportunity of being seen in photos or youtube videos that are shared right here on

And then there are some of us who attempt to make it happen ourselves.

I cannot speak for what is actually going on in this photo, I can only speak on what is perceived to be happening. Perception often trumps reality in situations like this.

The photo as seen on

The photo to the right was shared on, a popular site for men and women that share funny, sexy, and odd photos and video. Pictures of firefighters are a common occurrence on the site and firefighters seem to love it. I check it out a couple of times a week to see what is new.

The picture is hosted here. The whole set of images is here.

The problem with the photo is that it doesn’t paint the best picture of this firefighter, the FD of the firefighter in the photo, or the potential neglect of duties while posing for the photo.

The perception is that this firefighter stopped to take a photo during a house fire that is obviously not under control.

The reality COULD be that this is a training burn and this firefighter is not actively needed at the time, he takes a minute to have someone else snap the picture.

The truth could be something totally different.

Which one do you think it is?

My point here is not to hang this firefighter out to dry. If you think that me publishing his picture here is exposing him, I assure you that has a far larger reach than my blog.

My point is to bring attention to perception vs. reality when we are in the public view. Sharing a picture like this is potentially harmful to the firefighter, the fire department, and fire service in general. Even if it seems harmless to us, we should sit back and think about the perception that others will have of our photos and video.

We need to be a little more careful of what we are sharing online, and how we are acting on the fireground.

Carry on…

– The Fire Critic

Comments - Add Yours

  • Kathleen Reid LaBarr

    I believe in any emergency situation…real or practice…all hands are not to be IN the soup…there ARE moments in between…actions…most important is that the action is the best choice for the situation.<3

  • http://Facebook Jack Homen

    Perspective of a 30 year career firefighter, the use of this image absolutly damages the view of firefighters in all eyes. This incident is not under control and this photo is impeding the safety of our brothers, sisters and citizens we are sworn to protect. If this indeed was at a working incident and not photoshopped, ten some sort of correction is needed.
    The other thing that disturbs me is smiling at the destruction of property that is someone home or business. We are sworn to save lives and protect property not tweet photos of our antics.
    Jack Homen FF PM

    • Phill Zygmunt

      Well said sir

  • Pat Young

    As an active PIO (Public Information Officer)this picture makes me wonder what the department’s media policy outlines. This picture could potentially open the Firefighter and the department up to legal action by the homeowner/tenants. The photo situation may be benign but it sure leaves the impression that a dereliction of duty may be occuring. Public Perception is so unpredictable!! A media policy should protect the agency & employee and set bounderies to limit/remove liablity while promoting a positive image for the department!

  • Casey

    I am not a firefighter. I am a citizen and this image does not invoke any thoughts of irresponsibility , poor work ethic, bad judgment or any thing that would attribute to me feeling like this firefighter was doing a poor job.

  • John Force

    I believe this “opportunity” demonstrates a lack of focus and the gravity of the situation, that this “firefighter” feels his brothers can do with out his services while he poses! I am sure someone on that fire ground could use the help!! This is why Social Media-How to use it! should be added to the fire service curriculum!! What a tool!

  • Steve

    I see a lot of people in firefighter costumes on the chive, most don’t strike me a firemen. I like the pictures on there, I just detest the whole “chive movement” with the stupid shirts and so on. The fact he’s flashing the t-shirt and smiling really looks like he’s making light of the situation. Not that he may actually feel that way, but if I’m the homeowner and that was my house destroyed I’d be pissed off.

    I don’t care if he was in rehab, if you’re on the fire ground act like a fireman. This is what I hate most about the volunteer fire service. All the time I hear, “we’re professionals too, a paycheck doesn’t matter. etc etc” Now in the facebook comments a lot of you are trying to excuse is poor behavior because he’s just a volunteer. If you want respect, police your own. If you want to be seen as professionals, act like professionals. Some volunteers are much better at it than others.

  • Suck It

    Not everyone in turnout gear fights the fire… Pump operator.. rookies.. go-fer’s.. EMS…

    • Steve

      General public doesn’t know that, and it looks like he has an SCBA on. If you want to dress as a fireman, act like one.

  • Chuck

    As Chief of the department involved I was made aware of this on Monday.

    Those individuals are now aware of the poor taste of this photo and the bad perception it causes. They are currently suspended.

    I apologize for our department for lack of professionalism displayed along lack of empathy for the victims of this fire.

    Both are young men, good fire fighters, who made a mistake that they will not repeat.

  • http://verizon R.M. Shapleigh

    there is a “hot dog” in every crowd