Rick McClure knows that timing and location are important factors for a rescue call. A semiretired LAFD Captain, working a day shift per week in La Habra Heights, near Orange County, he also moonlights as a media photographer, or photo stringer, for ‘crash and burn’ rescue sites.
A dog rescue in the L.A. River is among the many dramatic images he’s captured. Light Force 75 responded to a call in Mission Hills. Rick was off-duty and nearby. Parked just outside station 75 he recounts, “The call came in, but I’m not sure whether or not the owner called it in. I queried the dispatcher at Metro and heard that between 4:30pm and 5:00pm a dog fell into the Los Angeles River, a few miles north of the station.”
“I pulled up at the same time as the responders, grabbed the cameras and waited because there was nothing visible.”
Light Force members were setting up to put a person in the river, but hadn’t yet seen the dog. At some point, they decided to abort that plan and go over to another area near Rinaldi Street. The river wasn’t flowing very fast, so they surmised the dog was stable in the area.
“The dog was rescued from there and, fortunately, had tags.” Rick took pictures of the team alongside the rescued pup.
“It’s always a great feeling when the animal is alive,” he says. “We’re there for people, but we’ll rescue whoever needs, if possible. That’s the nature of the fire department. It’s no different from a person rescue.”
Answering the Call of Duty
When off-duty, Rick tunes into the radio, listening out for dispatched calls of interest. Then he heads to the incident scene to capture dramatic rescues. His photos have been used by several newspapers as well as firefighter magazines and our charity’s web site.
Typically, there’s a lot of coverage during the day, so Rick strings in the evenings. “I cover pretty big areas [of L.A.],” he says.
He is ready to capture the scene of just about any incident. “I use a Sony cam for video and a Nikon D600, primarily for still photography.”
He is outside most nights each week, though he does receive requests to go out and shoot at other times, off-duty. “I will roll on something during the day if I’m close.”
“I may arrive to find that I’ve missed the extrication of a car that went into a building.” If that happens, he’s not phased. “If I can get footage of only the car and the building, I can make it work.”
Rick has loved taking photos since he was a kid growing up in North Hollywood. He started his career at fire station 60 in Santa Clarita. Once he obtained the rank of EMS captain, he was able to go to incidents and shoot. With more than 45 years of photography experience now he stays quite busy.
To view more of Rick’s work and to join his 6200+ followers visit resqric on Instagram.
By Madeline Wright
What is a Light Force?
- A Light Force is a small version of a task force. It’s group of fire apparatus consisting of a 100-foot aerial ladder truck, and a pump or a single engine, with six personnel for each part of the apparatus. With two engines going out with this ladder truck it is a called a task force, according to Rick.
- Rick says the engine company typically has four people. “If just an engine company was there at the station, they would have sent a first responder and called for the truck.”
- There’s not a lot of action. Expect a lot of dead time. We have our season when the Santa Anas come in.
- I wouldn’t recommend doing this work unless there’s a real desire to do that. You never know what you will encounter. That said, those interested should go to school and learn photography.
- Many new photographers don’t understand fire weather. My career path has been fire-related and so that’s what I did with my photography. I know what to look for. I go when I’m off-duty but I’m looking for wires above me and know where things are likely to collapse.
- Access is very limited. I’ve been around long enough to know you’re not going to get into an incident unless you’re already there or you have press credentials.
- It helps if you know someone. Utilize a news agency. Buy into a company that puts your stuff online for you. You can do well if your content is aired nationally.
For more info on a Light Force and other types of fire apparatus configurations, check out the LAFD site.
Rick McClure’s observations and advice to ‘Crash and Burn’ incident scene photographer hopefuls:
Learn more about how to become an active part of the WODFF community .