Is it legal or illegal to photograph fire scenes in southeastern Tennessee areas such as Hamilton County and Sequatchie County? Where can I find the information to back up the answer?

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That is a good point Lindsay about house numbers. It is something I never thought of until you mentioned it. I never intended to show anyone in a picture other than a member of our department. I want to post pictures of our scenes on our website to allow the community members to see exactly what we deal with and how real it gets. I want to remind them that we are hear to help, protect, and serve in the community. Thank you.
My department has a very clear policy that NO pictures or video, taken while on duty of any incident, may be uploaded or displayed anywhere without departmental approval. This eliminates the possibility of any HIPAA violations or liability exposure to the department. Depending on the incident a picture or video could be considered as evidence and needs to follow chain of custody protocols. Unless one is authorized by their department to upload (authorized) pictures etc. onto a department website, it should not be done.

Taking pictures from the other (general public) side of the yellow tape could still be problematic for a department if the person taking the picture(s) is a member of that department and the picture is posted on a department website. Other than that, any picture taken that any member of the general public could take is acceptable -insofar as it is not posted on a department website- and any issues arising from that publication would be the responsibility of that person alone.
My uncle is a volunteer photographer for the city and townships around him. His photos have been used in court, published in magazines and hung up in the fire houses. The departments supplied him with a credential to grant him access to the scenes.
Thank you all for your input on this matter. It really does give me a good direction to move in and know my boundries.
Like it has been said you do have to be extremely careful taking pictures of that stuff. I've only been a volunteer fire fighter now for about 4 months, and had everything explained to me about doing the pictures. Now I did end up taking a picture of a mutual-aid fire call from my first fire call back in January of 2010, but that picture was taken at the end of March. There wasn't any house numbers or and person's in the pictures or any clues to where this fire had actually taken place at. My thing was it was just my very first fire call, and it was a learning experience for me. I just more less took the one picture just to remind myself about it and how dangerous they can really be. I was told though I can't post it on facebook or anything, but I can keep it in my own personal photo book at home. There is a lot of laws that do play into taking those pictures, and it really does depend on where you live and what your local laws are. Now with the department I'm with, and I'm not 100% positive on this, but I think if we are at a house that we are burning for training we can do pictures, but like I said I'm not 100% sure on that so please don't quote me on that one. Just be careful if you are going to take the pictures so you don't get into any kind of trouble.
There is a big difference between "legal" and "permitted by the fire department".

If the fire is visible from a public place, then it is "in the public domain" and it is legal to photograph it and to publish the photographs.

Otherwise, the news media couldn't publish the photos.

There are at least two freelance photographers who routinely photograph and publish photos from the Hamilton County, TN area. uses a lot of them, as do local newspapers and various internet outlets.

Patrick's Fire and Emergency Photos

Carson Photos

Amy Carson, PIO for Hamilton County Emergency Services also routinely photographs and publishes fire scene photos. An example, "Middle Valley Home Destroyed by Fire" is several stories down the page here.
I see video taping of a fire scene as good. It can be used as a teaching tool for possible probies that come into the service.

There are actually official photographers for some departments.  Anyone can take pictures from outside.  Not sure how it could be illegal.  We have a few sites with plenty of pictures and videos. There's also individual company websites linked on the below.  Not to mention hundreds of YouTube videos.  If I'm working at a downtown company, I see people taking pictures and video of my daily.  I've randomly found pictures of myself on Flickr.

I know we're getting off Harlan's subject a bit, but I want everyone to take a look at Glen Ellman's work at Glen is the department's official photographer.

Ben summed it up: The big issue is the difference between legality and department policy. We're allowed to take photos as long as they don't detract from our work, which means they're usually after the action is over with. We are strictly forbidden to distribute or publish them anywhere, especially social media. They cannot contain identifiable addresses or faces...and nothing in poor taste such as bodies. It is legal to photograph anything that is in plain view from a public place. Look up "public domain" in legal precedent or in a "law of the press" textbook. if you peak over a wood six foot fence with your camera you're breaking the law. If you are taking pictures on the fire ground and the public is being kept a block away, you're breaking the law. Those are the types of images you wouldn't dare share with anyone.

Ice cream everyone!

Our department has a policy about the use of helmet cameras during incidents. We are allowed to use them, but they cannot delay our work, and we cannot publish them to youtube, facebook, or anything else. They are used for debriefings, and I will edit the videos for training purposes, we can get permission for use on the department website. As for pictures, we have a department photographer, who is a retired active member of the department, his photos have been used in investigations as well as in magazines and on our website.

You're opening statement is spot on Ben!

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