Media on Fires??

Media and photographers are not allowed in today. :man_shrugging:


How can they restrict the media if there is no crime scene?


Safety for non essential people


Life safety… we’ve lost so much already you can understand why the decision to limit the exposure for tragedy, the last thing any IC wants right now is the report of some freelance fire photog getting burned over


It does not work that way in California. California Penal Code 409.5(d)

Nothing shall prevent a duly authorized representative of any news service, newspaper, or radio or television station or network from entering the areas closed pursuant to this section.

Exception is crime scenes or can interfere with incident operations.

Their mere presents does not qualify as “interference” unless they are, through their actions endangering emergency personnel or the public. That would be something like blocking the roadway with their vehicle.
As responders our legal responsibility if something happens to them ends when we make them or they should be aware of the dangers they are being exposed to.

The other problem is trying to define “legitimate” media. By case law anyone that publishes anything in any medium by definition is part of the media. Huge can of worms to be sure.


409.5(d) does not apply on federal land.


Actually because California law enforcement (CHP) has enforcement responsibility and violations to most laws are adjudicated in California courts, 406.5(d) does apply. All (I think) National Forests comply and follow 409.5(d). Only exception is National Parks that do all law enforcement and crimes committed in the Parks are Federal Offenses.


The news media has only been showing old footage of fires anyway. Yes, they can and do get in the way sometimes. Remember the microwave van that caught fire in the middle of the road a few yrs ago. Im not saying that a good PIO could lead them in and into areas where they could get some good footage. But it seems like, Oh look, another air tanker drop… Air tankers are the cream of the crop when it comes to the film crews it seems. Yes I understand the news media folks need to pay the bills too. off the soapbox, your serve…


Small flames aren’t sexy.


Big flames push the shock and awe while 747s sure look cool even if they drop in the black.


Morbid voyeurism sells advertising. Maps were more helpful than any of the video coverage I found for the Bobcat fire.


I would say that a lot has to do with the target audience. @564Fire; FirePhotoGirl; and a couple of others, who are actually on the ground showing real work being completed where firefighters and the general public alike can receive valuable insight in the fire behavior, terrain, fuel loads, wind, etc are very valuable. Now, the helicopter news footage occasionally has some good footage but recognize that in most cases, they’re not firefighters and don’t know much of the time what is significant or not from a firefighter perspective. I think there is a major difference between the two sets of media and to classify what Tod and Brandi put forward in the same category is a complete disservice to what they do and provide.


No comparison or offense was intended. The sensationalist drivel I had to wade through to find real information about the status of our house was astounding. I guess I didn’t know the best places to look. I would say I’ll do better next time, but…I doubt anything will burn near our house again for a couple decades? Anyway, forgive my speaking out of my neck - I was ignorant of my ignorance.

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KTLA was live on the LAKE Fire (first couple of days) when it was racing to burn over some homes in structure protection in a draw. Several crews were rolling through the area… The narrator couldn’t figure out why so many ambulances were rolling through the area - must be a lot of burn victims…


Unfortunately all it takes are some kids in shorts and t-shirts in lab goggles/construction vests to damage years of hard work and goodwill by those who report/photograph wildfires and wear PPE, are trained in it’s use, and take safety seriously. 409.5 is a powerful tool and allows California wildfires to be documented, good, bad and ugly, for the historic record. But we have a responsibility to not become the story. Conversely, it’s a photographer’s job to photograph (provided safety first) and that can’t be done from the ICP or a press pen.

This summer I’ve personally dealt with personnel willfully ignoring 409.5 and illegally ejecting me from fires when my presence posed no impediment to fire operations. I’m unable to discuss specifics as it’s being dealt with through agency bureaucracy. It’s been a long season, we’ve lost good people, and folks are hanging on by a thread.

You can always have a Safety Officer have a conversation with media acting irresponsibly if time and circumstances allow, but know that many of us have training, wear shelters and all PPE, and truly care about telling firefighters’ stories and documenting the nitty gritty of wildfire. Not all media on the line are the same.

The case 564 is talking about appears to be the Bobcat/El Dorado from last Thursday, in which the IC relayed during morning briefing the next day that media was allowed in over radio. That day a media person had an asthma attack on the line and needed treatment at LACO FS79. So a double edged sword, to be sure. Please know that those of us who regularly cover wildfire are making a concerted effort to self-regulate and call out those on the line acting irresponsibly or working without PPE.

Thanks all and be safe. - Someone you’ve probably met in South Ops.


and nobody watches the 6 o’clock news for a happy ending. The National news is only interested in what scares you , stirring controversy and keeping you on edge wanting , needing to watch more. I really don’t know who Tod and Brandi are or about the good work they do. But I am afraid they may be the exception and not the rule . I am not sure how I feel about some of the Media when it comes to disasters like fires. Some of it is good and some maybe not so for reason I will try to explain. I am a survivor of the 2018 camp fire . It got a fair amount of space in the News. Not often does 90 percent of a town of 27000 burn to ash taking 19000 structures and 85 souls with it . Every News agency,paper and network was here. There was no talk of fuel load,terrain or fire behavior. Just fire. death and destruction. to horrify the watcher . It was so impersonal . Photographers/reporters were every where , Capturing maybe the worst moments of our lives. I am not sure the rest of you really needed to see all of that. and see it over and over again. I know we did not need to relive it in repetition . Just how much do we need or have the right to see. It was sort of a mass invasion of our privacy and grief . But it sold papers , adverts of whatever. I would agree with Dozer about what he wrote. Local news is how we find out everything here . We would be lost without them. Even if they get the details wrong or babble on endlessly it is the only way we have here of find much out in real time… I think other venues, are not really all that interested in any of us we are just product to them. But I also understand Scouts morbid voyeurism comment. Do we really need to see everything that is shown to us. How much is enough? But it isn’t really always the Medias fault. they sell what we buy… People slow down for wrecks so they can take a peak at someones else’s tragedy. right? Luckily for me I can come here and find out what is going on from all of you . Most of what happened here after the fire in regards to the national media sensational. mostly wrong and fairly useless. Without the local media as I said we would have all been lost in the days after. In a emergency it is where we go.
I hope I was not too far off topic. I just have gotten to see the other side of the coin… to be the watched not the watcher. Big Flames and Big Planes are great to watch . But as we all know that is the glitz… there is so much more going on that they do not often show. Pointing fingers and making talking points but not much else


My experiences with the media involve both ends of the spectrum. Mostly positive. On large incidents it is our responsibility as agencies to accept 409.5 as law and use it to our and the public’s advantage. There are always media types that are trying to get the “scoop” angle on their peers or adding a spin that will encourage follow up and therefore more public interest and coverage.
I will speak for Calfire teams inasmuch as we make a concerted effort to assign field PIOS to sheppard them around and get the shot they want while adding factual information to what they are shooting/covering. We can in those instances also deliver the “message of the day” in terms of public outreach. To do otherwise and block their access or deny coverage only invites criticism and “what are you hiding?”
It is their right to put themselves in danger and burn up their media truck under 409.5, but we should help them be safe while still allowing critical coverage to our employers, The Public.


Maybe in the name of public safety we should keep reporters at bay . The day after the North Complex over ran Berry Creek and Feather Falls reporters swarmed the area to record the damage. The local Sheriff had to put out a public plea for them to stop blocking the narrow access roads and let the firefighters do their jobs . A reporter from some paper I have never heard of drove to the school in Feather Falls with the dashboard camera recording the drive. They called out the addresses of the houses that were still standing while recording the trip . Then posted it on Utube. I thought that was a little irresponsible of them. The rush by the press to be the first to bring the story to press puts them in harms way and makes them one more thing to the firefighters up there to worry about . Not to sure what good it did anyone. Long before in the name of safety the residents get to return to look at what they have left in the world the press has already been there. How is it safer for them than for us. They pop on some some nice yellow fire gear to pose in and now it is OK. Most have no or little training and no positive reason to be there. I understand there are laws to protect their first amendment rights but perhaps there should be a standard for them to pass… like for a fireman. Before we let the media into a dangerous area. We all went thru training before they put us on a truck and sent us to do our jobs. I would ask if they really have that right

it endangers the lives of others, Like disobeying a mandatory evacuation order does…I agree with OrangeCurtain It’s been a long season, we’ve lost good people, and folks are hanging on by a thread. Something should , needs to be changed … the good work of some is being lost in the irresponsible actions of their peers. It may be photographers job to photograph.but at any time or place they choose is the question for me


I respect your opinions and experiences both personal and professional.
I for one absolutely do not agree that we should keep reporters at bay. They know the laws better than we do when it comes to free press. Many a time I have told them in my professional opinion they are in a bad spot, most of them listen and comply. Those who don’t I made it clear you may die, and leave them to their own. I think the minute we exclude media without a major and I mean determinate reason, we will place ourselves in the position of criticism that also takes away from the disaster mitigation need at hand. Like it or not, the media shapes the way the public thinks, just look at our current political situation. I would rather embrace them, treat them with respect and use the opportunity to educate in pursuit of doing their job. That has paid dividends in every case I/we have done it on my team.
Now, moral ethics must come into play on the part of the media, driving through a neighborhood and reading off addresses, or making identifying comments is pure moral turpitude and I agree should never be done. BUT, on the flip side I watched a California fire department PIO do a live Facebook drive with live narration through a neighborhood that was actively burning and showing clearly the street signs while, just for I guess what they thought was good public relations, that was pure lunacy.
And one final comment, who the he## in the media coined the term “brusher” when reporting a wildland fire?


Your good points are well taken. The Media can do a valuable service for us all in many cases. I appreciate your reminding me . But when is enough too much? The public has a right to know. But at what costs and to what point. I specially loved the pure lunacy comment…