Tag Archives: fire

Crash, burn and cooking vegan

On my way to the office for the start of my night shift Monday I no sooner turned on my scanner than a call came in for an additional firetruck to go to the scene  to help contain fuel being spilled and heading to the storm drains.  At L-A Harley.    I had nothing scheduled until  later, so I headed that way.  When I arrived, I will not lie.  I was excited.  A motorcycle was crushed under the wheels of a truck.  What a great photo.  Morbid perhaps.  But for a photojournalist, a moving, well not really, but stunning imagery.  I could tell at once nobody was seriously hurt.  The demeanor of the police and firefighters is a dead, pardon the pun, giveaway.   I shot, talked to firefighters and cops, bystanders, employees and the like.  Shot some more and waited until there was a moment when the drivers were done talking with the police and firefighters.  I approached them with my camera not pointing in their face, and managed to talk to both drivers and got information for a caption.  The driver of the bike said the sun was in his eyes and he thought the truck was turning left, so he went to pass on the right.  He made an assumption and paid the price.  He is lucky to be alive.

While skulking around, waiting for one of them to put a hand on his head or face, or  some other more dramatic moment, I got a call from a fellow Sun Journal employee.  They were having mechanical difficulties with their vehicle and asked if I could come over and help.  I hung out at the scene for a few more minutes.  Documenting a scene like this is akin to covering a baseball game.  You might get your best photo in the first inning, but stay the entire game hoping for a better one.  I had some great shots already, but might have gotten a better one.  I stayed a little longer, but didn’t get what I was looking for.  I was focusing so long on trying to get one of the drivers, preferably Don Morris, the lucky one who was riding the bike, hoping he would  express some emotion that would have put the photo over the top.  But that didn’t happen.  I did see the irony of the Ride Safe logo on the license plate and shot a closeup.

The first comment from a reader online said that photo told the story best.  It is a wicked literal photo.

I helped my colleague with their car issue and headed to the office where I uploaded the photos to the website and headed to CMMC where I shot a video and photos of a class about eating better that will be our Eats for this Sunday’s B section.  I learned about the benefits of a vegan diet and was entertained by a former Soviet bloc cook who has traveled the world and for a month, for free, show anyone interested, how to eat better and have it taste good.

About 10 minutes into it, I got a call from Judy Meyer, managing editor days, and a great boss, talented writer, editor and champion of freedom of the press, telling me there is a possible structure fire, but will call back if it turns out to be bad, so don’t go yet, but can you scoot if needed.  Of course.  Don’t worry about it came the call 5 minutes later.  Five after that, it might be something, can you check it out when you get done.

I did and in the middle of shooting that, a call for smoke coming from Blake Street Towers.  Race there and while getting out of my car there, a call for possible smoke coming from Bates Mill.  I can see smoke for sure coming from Blake Street, so I start shooting.  Some trucks diverted to the mill, but later the caller reporting the Bates Mill fire calls back and says it just the smoke from the towers.   Unlike the TV guys who tend to stay in one place, I walk around the entire building and get a variety of different scenes playing out.

Head back to the office, process the lot, and get ready to punch out a few minutes early.  Call it not getting a lunch break.  An eventful, but short shift for a change.  Just then a friend, knowing I am late guy, calls and  says “nice night for a bike ride, ya think!”

Monday night’s I usually get home when everyone is calling it a night anyway, it could not be any better weather,  I did not get to the gym today, ok.   What a perfect night for a ride through LA.   A minute before midnight I get home and my oldest son Ryan is just going to bed.  I say goodnight and tell him I am taking Allie for a walk.  His eyes open wide, sits up and says.  “I’m coming, I want to spend some time with you dad.”   We have gone on hundreds of walks with the dog, many late at night.  But both of us know they will be coming to an end soon as he is heading off to boot camp at the end of the summer.  I am so proud of him, happy for him, and am confident he will do great things.  But damn if I won’t miss my son.  A great way to end my day.

Of all the images I have from today, the one that will last the longest is the look in Ryan’s eyes when he shot up from his bed with a big smile on his face, wanting nothing more than to spend time with me.

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Filed under Day at work, Feature, Fire, Police video

Wicked Friday

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Friday’s schedule looked like hell Thursday night, but like many that have preceded, it snowballed into another wicked long day that kept on going.  I was scheduled to work 1-9, but needed to come in early to shoot the Field day at Sherwood Heights Elementary School.  I also knew about a funeral for Kylee Gendron,  a very admired, strong, positive, local woman who died at an early age after a courageous battle with cancer.  After the funeral, hundreds of balloons would be launched. A great photo opportunity, and opportunity to share with our readers.  The funeral was at 11.  I got there about 11:30.  Balloons were launched about 12:30.

I hustled over to the field day and ran around to a dozen settings where they had all sorts of cool activities.  I shot stills and video from both these assignments.  I planned on editing the video after my baseball game later.   On the way back from the field day I called my colleague, Amber Waterman to see what was up and ask for help.  It was already 1:45, and I was not able to reach my 1:30 portrait assignment for a story we are doing next week about kids who go into their father’s line of  work.  I wanted to tell them I would be late.   She said no problem, and offered to go shoot it for me.  The photo staff at the Sun Journal works together like no other.  It’s why we have cornered the market on photo awards in the annual Maine Press Association most every year.  We are like a family, without the hair pulling or biting, but not without animosity and a cold shoulder once in a while.  But for the most part, without a photo editor, we work together like no other photo department in the state.  I digress.

No sooner did I hang up  with her, I got another call to go to a structure fire on Main Street in Auburn.  I headed over there and not seeing smoke, and from what I was hearing over the scanner, I had my suspicions.  I parked my car and met up with reporter Chris Williams just getting out of his.  I told him “I’ll bet they are just training.  The street is not closed down, I don’t see any cops.”  My suspicions were confirmed and we headed back to the office.

I had just enough time to download my video’s to edit later and pump out a couple prints from the funeral and field day so the editors could see them in their afternoon budget meeting to decide what gets played where in Saturday’s paper.  I handed them to editor Judy Meyer and left for my 3:30 playoff baseball game in Buckfield.  On the way, the sky was blue with puffy white clouds, but an ominous sky loomed ahead.  As I got closer, it was about 3:35, I got a call from sports reporter Randy Whitehouse, saying there was wicked lightning (foreshadowing) in the area and it was starting to rain, so the game was on hold.  Within a minute, rain started pelting my windscreen.

I got to the game and no sooner had I parked and reclined my seat for a much needed moment of rest, I got a call from Judy.  “Lightning struck a house in Hebron and it is fully engulfed.”  When she told me it was off the Green Mountain Road, I knew where that was, so headed that way.  I got to the road before the police arrived, so I drove up the dirt road off the main road toward the fire.  I got about half way there and pulled into a driveway.  It was still a quarter of a mile away, but I didn’t want to go further fearing I would get blocked in.  As I was getting out of my car, I noticed them setting up for a dump tank behind me and getting ready to run a supply hose down the road up ahead.  I WOULD be cut off.  I jumped in my car and raced back up the dirt road out to Greenwood Mountain Road. I parked my  car on the road out of the way and grabbed my cameras and opened my umbrella as it was still raining.  I could see a big plume of smoke on the horizon as I was driving to the scene, but nothing now.  As I scurried up the long, muddy, dirt road, I came to several fire commanders talking.  I asked if I could go up a little further and one said, “Don’t go up there until we have secured the scene Russ.”  I asked if I could go up a little further and one said, OK Russ.”  It helps that I have been around for 30 years and many of the firefighters and police officers know me.  Of course, when I turned the corner and saw the flames rising 40 feet in the air, I had to keep creeping closer.  I got close, but not too close .  I wanted to go to the left where the flames were raging most, but there were no firefighters over there,  my instincts told me no.  Good thing as a few minutes there were explosions from propane tanks and a wire started sparking on the ground.

The rain had stopped and there was even some blue sky.  Perfect for shooting photos.  I closed my umbrella and kicked myself for not bringing my bag of video equipment.   I had considered it when grabbing my gear, but with no smoke visible, the long walk, already having two other video’s to edit, and the rain, I decided not.  I now regretted it.  Oh well.  I began shooting.  I got my photos and got out.   Better not to overstay my welcome.  Besides, I had to get back to the baseball game.

Within a few minutes of getting back to Buckfield High School, the game began.  I got a great shot in the third inning, a few ok secondary shots already, so I stayed one more inning and headed back to the office.  It was nearly 8:00 when I sat down at my desk to start processing everything.

First on the agenda was to attach the fire photos to the story that was already posted on our website.  That done, I processed the baseball photos, captioned the other two photos I gave the desk before I left for the game and then started working on my video’s.   Two hours later when they were done and in the process of uploading to our video hosting site, I started going through the dozens of emails I had received over the past day.  It was my last day before going on vacation this week, so I had some loose ends to tie up.

At that time my good friend and work colleague, Scott Thistle,  called me, knowing the day I had and invited me over to his man cave for a beer.  At 11:30 my wife was asleep and I had already called my boys earlier, so I took him up on his offer.  The video’s were still uploading, but I could attach them to the stories later at Scott’s house.  When I arrived, he was tweaking his North to Augusta work blog that he just started.   I had three beers, keeping me under the OUI limit, I headed home at 12:45.

My faithful dog Allie met me at the door.  Ryan, my oldest, was just heading off to bed, so I gave him a hug and asked him if he had a chance to walk the dog today.  He said he and his girlfriend took her for a short one because of the rain.  It was so gorgeous outside and I still had a little life left in me, so I grabbed a couple Hannaford bags I use to scoop the poop, and the leash and headed out the door.  I don’t have to hook her up at night.  We walk down the street, across the intersection and then jog to the end of the street.   Before crossing Campus Avenue into the Bates campus Allie always stops.  At that point I attach the leash before heading to the campus, usually.  The college kids are gone and not one car on either side of Campus Avenue.  No cars anywhere.  She looks up at me and I said,  “Go get the squirrel!”  and we are off racing through the campus.  It’s nearly 2 before I am crawling in bed.

This is not an unusual day, just different.  Most every work day is long, and I  like to squeeze everything out of a day.  Friday I did not get a chance to spend any time with my family other than to cook breakfast and drive them to school, but most day’s I can find time to go for a bike ride, or play pass, basketball or whatever the sport of the season it. Walking the dog with one or all of them is great fun too.  Because I have long day’s like this, I have no qualms about skipping out during the middle of my shift to watch a game or go to a practice, doctor or school appointment, or other function my boys are in.  I have great bosses in Judy Meyer and Rex Rhoades who have no problems with this, knowing they get way more work out of me than the 37.5 hours I am paid. Being on salary has it’s ups and down’s.

I have the best job in the world, a great family in my wife, boys, brother and sisters.  My dad is still around who I usually have coffee with most mornings after dropping the older boys off at school and heading to work.  I could not have asked for better in-laws, and my extended family and friends are the greatest.  I have been blessed with a wonderful life.  Now if I could just figure a way to pay my bills, I would be the happiest man alive.  But money can’t buy love and happiness.  In that, I am the richest man alive.  I did not know Kylee Gendron, but like many others, she has inspired me to keeping on living life to it’s fullest.  I have always done that, but will try to do so even more.  Love, share and care is my motto.   So as Kylee would say, I’ll Keep on Keepin-on.

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Filed under Day at work, Fire