Fire Photographer Profile: Rick McClure

From wildland fires to major emergencies in the Los Angeles area, California fire photographer Rick McClure has been there. In this month’s Fire Engineering fire photographer profile, Rick took some times to answer questions about his photography, the area he covers, and more.

FE: What got you started in fire photography?

RM: At the age of eight I began to hang around my local fire station, on my bicycle, chasing. I was carrying a Kodak Instamatic and an 8mm movie camera. My love of the fire service and fire photography grew and even after I became a firefighter/paramedic, I continued to shoot for the local newspapers and numerous fire publications. I have been published worldwide and some of my work has been in the L.A. Times, Herald Examiner (gone now), LA. Daily News, The-Signal, AP, UPI (gone now), Fire Engineering, Fire Command, Firehouse, Jems, Paramedics International, Fire Rescue, and other emergency service publications.

FE: What kind of equipment do you use?

RM: Digital photography with a Nikon D600, 28-300 mm 3.5 nikor lens, Nikon 5100 with 18-70mm 3.5, Fuji Finepix S5 pro with 500mm 6.1, Sony m580 handcam.

FE: What have been some of more memorable jobs?

DC3 crash with fire, Van Nuys Calif, 1976, firefighters running through gasoline and on fire; small child being rescued and carried down ladder from apt house fire, with fire blowing out windows next to ladder, Westlake district of Los Angeles; 1st Interstate High-Rise fire, downtown LA, 1988; Truck 15 collision, eight civilians killed; Fire (Helicopter) 3 crash in Griffith Park, transporting a child trauma patient, (patient, two paramedics, one helitac crew member killed); numerous firefighter and law enforcement funerals, Major brush fires, etc.

FE: What’s unique about the area you cover – the place, the firefighters, the hazards, etc?

RM: Los Angeles is very diverse in culture, demographics, and topography. We have all variations of emergencies, from brush fires in urban areas to ocean rescues, high-rise to single family dwellings, and everything in between.

The fire departments in Los Angeles provide both fire and EMS service, many of the firefighters are dual function (operate as paramedics and fire suppression). There are over 4 million people living in the City of Los Angeles, and about 8 million in the county. Our hazards would be the high winds that push our brush fires, heavy traffic on the freeways, having major target areas such as LAX and the Port of Los Angeles, refineries, and earthquakes. Our weather is good most of the year. We don’t deal with the extreme cold, snow, tornadoes, or rain that annually affects the rest of the country.

FE: What have been some of your more memorable publications?

RM: Over the years I have had covers of Fire Engineering from Deardon’s Departmentt store fire in downtown Los Angeles, Glendale Metrolink crash, and recently (October 2014) DC10 makes retardant drop on “Williams Fire” in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Other covers have been on Firehouse, Straight Streams (L.A. County), Grapevine (L.A. City), and other emergency service publications.

FE: Any advice to aspiring fire photographers?

RM: Get to know your local fire/law enforcement personnel. Always be respectful of those who serve. Don’t get too close–that’s what telephoto lenses are for. Keep your eyes and ears open, look around and pay attention to detail. Wires above or down, a crack in a wall, and moving vehicles are all major hazards to the business. Stay out of the way.

The firefighters like to see pictures of their incidents–provide them. Personally, I don’t typically charge them. It’s a minor detail with potentially big reward…If they ask how much, ask them for a cup of coffee.

See more of Rick’s photos on Flickr at


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