The Story of Another Fire

Joel’s Journal - January 12, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #12


The sun was still hiding behind the horizon, leaving the morning sky a deep shade of blue as I pulled off the highway onto Simcoe Street. I was lost in my own thoughts of the day as I glanced right to make sure no cars were coming, then left before pull-

The building on the corner was on fire. 

I blinked. 

The building on the corner was definitely fire. 

“Holy fucking shit!”

The words echoed around the car as I pressed on the gas and ripped the car out onto Bloor Street. From there, you take the first right onto Simcoe Street and it’s only a few short blocks to the Express office (and my camera). 

My way was blocked, a fire truck was parked on a slant across the road, it’s big cherry lights casting red flashes of light across the road. Caution tape was blowing in the wind as it spanned the two-lane road, anchored to the metal poles holding the traffic lights. 

I swore under my breath as I couldn’t go straight either as another two fire trucks were parked at different angles across the four lanes of pavement in front of me. There red circling lights clashing with the blue orbs spinning from the top of the police cars dotting the scene. 

The building was an inferno. The two-storey triangle, which abuts the corner of the street was completely ablaze, flames ripping through the roof as a pair of hoses at the end of long ladders blasted water down into the building. 

I felt helpless, my camera only a few short blocks away. 

When the light turned I pulled a left turn, which took me back across the 401. I made a right, then another right as I tried to find my way around the mess. 

Every second that the fire was out of the sight I knew that it would be out before I got back. Fire crews work fast, and trying to get actual flames in a photo is a rare opportunity. 

When I made it back to the office, I ran from the car, thudded up the stairs, snatched my camera and a spare lens, hucked them into my bag and thundered back down the stairs. Rain was pelting the windows outside the office so I snatched a plastic bag from the kitchen, ripped a tiny hole in the corner of the bag’s bottom and forced my lens through the hole, creating a make-shift rain guard. (It kind of worked).

Leaving my car behind, I jogged down the street to the barricade that had already formed on this side of the scene. I was almost immediately soaked. 

Rain was pouring down now and I waved my camera at the cop and pointed back at The Express office sign only a few metres behind us. He waved me through, telling me to stick to the opposite side of the road. 

“If the fire guys tell you you’re in the way, get out of the way!” He yelled. 

I nodded, hopped onto the sidewalk and began to sprint. 

I made it just in time. 


I snapped these shots just as the extended ladder, moving like the arm of some giant robot in War of the Worlds appeared out of the thick smoke above the fire and blasted a massive white jet of water down onto the flames. 

The fire pressed back, exploding out of the windows in one final burst of anger. My shutter clicked away. 


They disappeared in a thick cloud of black smoke. 

Without the brightness of the flames, I cranked up the ISO on my camera to compensate, and tried to open up my shutter a bit more to allow for more light without turning the running fire fighters into blurs. 

I knew I would need to brighten everything in Lightroom after, but I compromised with a crisp image that was a little dark and kept shooting. 

I stuck around for about 45 minutes, getting soaked all the while, but shooting constantly. 

I was able to grab a supervisor as he moved back to his car and check to ensure nobody was hurt (nobody was, all the tenants made it out), and then went back to shooting. 


Eventually, my camera was almost as wet as me, and my wet gloves were no longer able to wipe away the water coating my lens. In my haste, I’d forgotten to bring a rag along. 

So, I admitted defeat, gave it a few more minutes to make sure flames weren’t once again going to explode out of the roof, then made the soggy walk back to the office. 

It was just after 8 a.m. 

Welcome to Friday. 

Thanks for reading!


The News Story


VIDEO - Second fire of the week destroys Oshawa business

Joel Wittnebel