Photographers are not always a welcome sight at a fire or accident scene. Those involved, police, fire, rescue and the victims usually see them as being a nuisance and invasion of privacy. If you are "not" an actual emergency service member then a whole new world of problems arise. I am a support volunteer, I take care of the Fire Dept Website and take their scene, event, facilties and events photos. I am there only to put a public face out there for all others to see and be aware of the Dept. work and activities.
Generally, the members of the Dept and some surrounding Departments know me and have no problem with my presence at a fire scene. They know me well enough to know that I will not get in the way of operations and stay out of harms way. Law enforcement is another story, they will do their best to keep anyone with a camera out of the area of an accident scene. Identifying yourself to them really makes no difference, you are not wanted there. They care not that you are responsible enough to not photograph a victim being attended to by EMS personnel and to not show identifying license plate numbers or other protected identities.
Monetary limitations come into play as well. All responses made to a fire or accident scence are at personal cost, my activites are not funded and not covered by insurance. With the now spiraling fuel costs, the number of responses to calls have been reduced to about one-tenth of what they once were. Having a fire dispatch pager and scanner, I listen to the calls and tone-outs as they come in. I will not immediately respond to any call until it is identified as a bonified "working" fire or accident with need for extrication. By listening first, I save costs by not responding to call that in 5 minutes is called back as being a false alarm.
Then why with all these limiting factors dont' the fire personnel take the photos? With good reason, it is their duty to attend to the emergency and not be saddled with a camera and look for photo opportunities. The fire personnel cannot take the time nor are savvy enough to compose a shot that is focused, centered and selected that will "tell the story". Good cameras are delicate and need to be protected, cheap cameras take lousy photos.
The reason I do this job voluntarily is that I support the firefighters that help protect my home and the homes and businesses of my community.
The reason I posted this discussion is to get thoughts from fellow non-member photographers (if any) and comments from actual fire service and ems members. Its OK with me if opinions are expressed, just make criticisms constructive.
I use a digital single lens reflex camera with enough storage card memory to hold 2200 photos at full resolution. More than one photo is taken of a given shot to ensure that a usuable photo is available. A wide angle 14-50mm and telephoto 50-150 mm lens is used to facilitate getting all shots possible.