Monday, October 03, 2011
Sloth to Flame
Even though I'm not the spot news specialist I once was, I can still roll up hard on a house fire. Especially when it's one of those abandoned homes lovingly set ablaze by men in turn-out gear. That's right, I stumbled across a training fire last week and treated it like it was news. To be fair, I knew it was a 'control-burn' - as the traffic cones between me and the fire trucks were arranged way too precisely. Still, I forged ahead, knowing that somewhere among that burning rubble were a few sharp edges I could hang a story on. As it turned out, UNC-Greensboro donated the old home to the city's fire department, who, not surprisingly, doused the thing in gasoline and called all their buddies. By the time I noticed the smoke plume, they were well on their way to choking every squirrel within a fifty tree radius.
But it didn't stop me, for I've been taken with blaze containment since the Reagan Administration. Back then I was the bookish younger brother of a future firefighter. Richard Pittman grew up to fulfill his action hero leanings. Me, I just dug the view. So I became a TV news photog and in twenty years I've attended countless conflagrations. Most were tinged with tragedy, of course. That's why training fires are so much fun: you get the thrill of the hunt without trampling over some poor woman in a housecoat. Why, I've even known training fires like to this to change young photogs lives! There was this one guy I knew who covered a controlled burn so thoroughly, he left the scene wanting to be a firefighter himself. Look! There he is now!
Tim Bateson, in the flesh. I suppose I should have expected him to be here, but when he popped out from behind a fire engine with camera in hand, I was more than a little surprised. And pleased. Tim spent many years at El Ocho, proving himself a committed lenslinger and all around great guy (even if he IS Canadian). When he announced he day he was leaving tee-vee to answer a higher calling we asked him when his garbage route started. Turns out he had something even more noble in mind. These days, he's one of them, though his photog past hasn't left him, as evidenced by the way he kept getting in my shot with that damn camcorder. That's okay. I'll wait til he picks his nose one day, then share the dig with the Greater Piedmont Googolplex. That'll teach him to get all heroic on us.
Now if only he'd teach me to arrange traffic cones like that...