Photographing fire trucks in Washington DC

A trip in 1984 was my first time photographing fire trucks in Washington, DC. The fire department was known as DCFD, and the apparatus was painted red with a very wide white stripe around the middle. Back then, the stripe was painted on, not applied using reflective tape. Truck 1 was one of the first (perhaps the first) 135′ aerial that was sold by E-ONE. It was on a Spartan chassis because they had not yet introduced their own custom Hurricane chassis. It was a much simpler time in many respects, and setting up this shot on the National Mall was not difficult.I chose a spot that was several blocks away to highlight the capital building while still making sure that the fire truck was the main focus. I was careful to position the camera so that the nozzle at the tip of the waterway was clearly visible with only blue sky behind it.

Washington DC Fire Department Truck 1 E-ONE 135' ladder
Washington DC (DCFD) Truck 1 on the National Mall with the US Capital in the background. Larry Shapiro photo

Not long after the shot of Truck 1 was taken, the fire department adopted a new design for their vehicles. One of the early units with the new colors was this 1988 Grumman AerialCat for Truck 10. It was one of a pair of twins that were delivered. This was another example of a shot to include the US Capital, though I confess it’s not my best work. I’m unhappy about the turned wheel and the fact that the island obstructs my view of the pavement under the rear axle. I seem to remember that we were having some difficulty with lighting and placement for the two trucks together. These were considerably heavier than the truck I photographed on the mall.

Washington DC DCFD Truck 10 Grumman AerialCat tower ladder
A shot of DCFD Truck 10 at the US Capital from the 1988. Larry Shapiro photo

Still another visit to DC for an E-ONE heavy rescue assigned to Squad 1. This time, I was there in the morning and couldn’t shoot from the other side of the capital as I had in the past. There’s not much access from this side with a view of the dome, and the firemen suggested a spot along the curb near the building. If you look real close, you can just barely make out a piece of the dome between the trees … not my best work here either. It’s a beautiful shot of the rig, but it doesn’t depict classic DC like I wanted to.

Washington DC DCFD Rescue 1
DCFD Rescue 1 shortly after being delivered was photographed on the curb outside the US Capital, which was not the best place for a shot of the capital. Larry Shapiro photo

This shot comes with a story. Since I enjoy shooting fire trucks for myself, the guys brought two other trucks along with the rescue squad so I could photograph them as well. We pulled up along the curb and I got out of one truck … and there’s this long line of trucks with about a dozen or so firefighters. I walked across the street to setup my tripod for the shot, and I found myself surrounded by several US Capital Police cars … a spotter inside the building saw someone with a tripod across the street, and there was concern for a security threat …

There’s never a dull moment in DC.

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