House Fire

Unfortunately, there was a pretty bad house fire a few streets over this past weekend. Smoov J was riding his bike over to hang out on the newly completed deck and heard all the commotion. He saw flames coming out of the windows and it looked pretty bad. It sounded like an event that might make for some strong images, so I grabbed the camera and we headed over. Luckily, the fire department had gotten things under control very quickly. We stuck around for a few minutes and I made a few quick pictures.

This situation presented me with a common photojournalism ethics dilemma. The family that lives in this house was in a neighbor's yard consoling each other. Obviously it was a very difficult time for them. The exterior doesn't look that bad, but I am pretty sure it was a total loss on the inside. I pretty much kept my camera pointed at the trucks and the house, but I kept one eye on the family because that is where the strongest moments are likely to happen. Some neighbors were helping them, bringing them water, etc. I noticed a little neighbor girl walking toward the family with a teddy bear in her hand. Seeing the moment start to take shape, I squatted in the street as discreetly as possible and waited for the action to unfold. Some members of the family realized that I was paying them some attention and it was obvious they wanted none of it. I gestured that I understood and made a point to throw the camera strap over a shoulder. As I walked away I peeked back at that little girl. She walked over to a young girl that lived in the house and handed over the teddy bear as a comforting gift. It was a very touching moment that would have made a very powerful image. Legally speaking, I had every right to photograph that situation, but photojournalists understand that sometimes a line must be drawn based on their perception of what is appropriate at any given time. Getting that picture would not have been worth upsetting members of the family after what they had already been through.

Neighbors comfort each other as they watch the emergency crews get the blaze under control.

I grabbed my mid-wide angle lens so I was forced to get a little creative in my composition since I could not zoom in on the house.

An emergency worker rushes to the house. Of course, I was walking around the truck as he came tearing around the corner, so I didn't have time to frame a shot. I just put the camera to my face and clicked a frame. Ideally, I would have been in the same spot as the above shot so the truck and the house would be featured prominently in the shot. Even as the crews got the fire under control, smoke continued to pour out of the windows.

A brief St. Pete Times article mentions that the Salvation Army is providing support for the family.

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