Ladder 22: A NYC Firefighter – Tim Olk

By: Erich Roden

I have been going to Tim Olk’s website: olkee.smugmug.com for a long time; so do many others I know. Why? It’s not just that Tim takes great photos; it’s that Tim takes a ton of them. Many in my fire department –myself included- have used his photos to study for promotional exam assessment centers and it has paid off twice in my career, literally. I mean, you could run through an assessment center fire problem every day using a different fire he shot every time. Try it, and be sure to thank Tim later…

Seriously, however, Tim’s selfless contributions to fire photography –like every fire photographer we see when we come out of the fire building- are invaluable, as they capture fire service history as it is unfolding; history that we can re-hash in front of the firehouse computer during the next tour these days. What’s more, many firefighters in Chicago, and points nearby, have told Tim, “When I return home from a tour, my son or daughter asks what I did at work last night.” I say, “Rather than tell you, let’s go to Tim’s website and I’ll show you.”

Tim has been taking photos of Chicago area fire departments for twenty-eight years. He has photographed virtually every type of fire and incident imaginable and has even assisted police departments during investigations. Tim has worked for several paid-on-call fire departments in the Chicago area; His current gig is as a regional director of the International Fire Photographers Association covering: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri.

Tim’s favorite photos are the ones that show new firefighters in action; or a group photo after said new firefighter’s first fire. Anyone who has had their photo taken with their crew after a fire during their proby year would agree that photos like that are priceless, and Tim has thousands of them.

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