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As I was reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol last week, it came to me that the lessons learned in this classic tale apply to many facets of life - especially in the fire service. And just as the three ghost that haunted Ebeneezer Scrooge that Christmas Eve opened his eyes to what was, is, and will be, so could they warn us of the perils of recording and posting crash-scene photo/videos. Though a few creative liberties were taken on my part, the message remains the same - we are chained to what we do in the past, must be accountable for the present outcome of our actions, and suffer the future consequences.

With alarming regularity, incident scenes and video taken by firefighters are popping up everywhere on the internet. Most are harmless; well-intended movies of responding units showing what we do and experience. However, in recent months reports of disturbing photos and videos recorded by firefighters are making headlines. Whether for morbid curiosity or deranged pleasure, these images were leaked to the public, and what's worse, to the victim's family. I can't imagine their horror and heart-break! In an age where nearly everyone carries technology that is capable of taking photos or recording video, we must stop and think about our actions. Because once shared, they can never be retrieved - and that permanent chain is forever linked to you! And just as my Jacob Marley/Ghost of Christmas Past character portrays, you will dredge that chain for the rest of your life.

Cell phones have NO business on the fire ground or crash-scenes, so keep the damn things in your pocket!!

To see more of my work or to purchase a print of this illustration, visit:


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Comment by Carol Wilder-Goodwin on December 15, 2010 at 1:48pm

We all see things on scene that keep us awake a night.  Things you spend a lifetime trying to forget.

The idea of wanting to record it to share with your pals is just plain sick. 


Paul---I love the snow, too.  But I seem to get to see most of it while pulling people out of ditches.

My part of Indiana is getting ready for possibly 5-8 inches of snow with sleet/freezing rain mixed in starting this later today. 

Hope everyone has a safe and uneventful Christmas!  :)

Comment by Paul Combs on December 14, 2010 at 11:11pm

Nah, I love the snow!!! Going to Tampa for vacation in March, though - by then, I'll be ready for Tampa weather:)

Please feel free to use the illustration, Chief. You, Christa and the family have a wonderful Christmas, too!


Comment by Lynn Hancock on December 14, 2010 at 10:53am


I love it and with your permission I will be using it as I teach communications and ethics in FO2.

By the way, I bet you wish for some of that Tampa weather now!

Have a Merry Christmas,

Comment by Paul Combs on December 14, 2010 at 8:45am

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Chief Goodrich: I think when it comes to any conversation regarding calls, the ol' adage should be taught and upheld, "what happens in the firehouse, stays in the firehouse". The public does not need to know what we discuss, joke, get angry, and at times, cry about. These things never need to leave beyond the firehouse bay doors! Ever!

Thanks for all the generous comments about my work and book, too (and that goes for everyone). I truly appreciate it and am humbled by its success.



Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on December 13, 2010 at 2:54pm

That we should have to remind anyone in our ranks that it is inappropriate to show the lifeless body of someone's child captured at the scene on their cell phone camera and then passed around the bar like they are seeing the greatest J****** stunt ever; makes me question the validity of the testing done on new hires.

I can understand our little conversations amongst each other about the "rush" that we get for a call, but that is mostly a private thought between brothers.

When our comments, which are very open, frank and honest amongst ourselves gets into the hands of the public, they do not understand the context nor the reasoning behind what is said. They only know that it sounds wrong to them, even though we see nothing wrong with what has been said. We don't understand why our public is so upset. With the spoken word, you can usually add more explanation that will clarify it and make it acceptable.

But, when it is in a photo or in a video, it is immortalized for eternity. It adds fuel to the fire of the firefighter haters. It lends credence to the idea that someone wasn't busy at a scene, so why do we need that many in the first place and it really brings in the question of whether our public can trust their lives with someone so ignorant that they can't see the wrong in taking photos or videos at a fatal incident scene.

Paul; you have the uncanny ability to "undress" important issues with your eyes and to draw with precise detail what we are to see.

Someday, I hope to write as great as you can draw.

Well done once again.

I am telling all of my friends that your book Drawn By Fire would make a great Christmas gift.

Comment by Jerry Wells on December 10, 2010 at 9:13am

Another Great Job..........and your narrative "permanent chain is forever linked to you".   I suppose it is like wearing the T-shirts.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Comment by Nick Morgan on December 9, 2010 at 5:22pm
Amen Paul!! Some in our fire service family just don't get it!
Comment by Jeff Schwering on December 8, 2010 at 8:46pm
Great Job Paul!
Comment by John K. Murphy on December 8, 2010 at 12:32pm
Amen. It speaks to the need for departments to create and enforce a rigorous Social Media Policy and swift discipline for those who invade our patient’s rights to privacy.

Bah Humbug to those who violate those rights for your ego driven desire for 15 minutes of fame. Creating pain for others to drive your ego has no place in our fire service.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas
Comment by Keith Farris on December 8, 2010 at 10:44am
I love it! I just hope the right people see and get the point form this. Great job as always Paul! Happy Holidays!

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