NJ Firefighters Are Told: No Selfies or Posing for Photos at Disasters
NEPTUNE — Firefighters who posed for pictures as they fought the Ocean Grove on Saturday earned the ire of social media for being disrespectful and inappropriate. Although the township mayor doesn't think it was a major problem.
Twitter user @FireMedic40NJ tweeted a selfie of a firefighter standing on the beach as flames came out of the roof of the Dunes Grill, according to the website Statter911.com.
Another image cited by the Asbury Park Press showed a group of firefighters standing on the boardwalk while posing for a picture.
The fire destroyed the building, which housed several small businesses and eight restaurants at the northern end of the boardwalk on the border with Asbury Park.
"I’m sure the owners of the businesses that burned at the NJ Boardwalk yesterday appreciate that you all had enough time to pose for these great pics of yourselves with their livelihood going up in smoke in the background. Very classy," @FireMedic40NJ tweeted. His account has since been made private.
Mayor Carol Rizzo on Tuesday said that the volunteer firefighters "spent the majority of their weekend battling a very difficult blaze" and the township is "thankful for their efforts as well as the efforts of the hundreds of firefighters from the more than 40 towns who came to assist us."
"It's disturbing that the stories of those who worked so hard to protect our community are being pushed aside for those who would rather criticize a small group of firefighters who may have had a lapse in judgement," Rizzo said.
New Jersey State Fire Marshal and Division of Fire Safety Director Richard Mikutsky said that the division does not set standards for taking photos at the scene of a fire.
"Standards for personal responsibility should be set by the individual department or municipality," Mikutsky said in a written statement. "As the State Fire Marshal, I always encourage New Jersey’s firefighting professionals to be respectful, sensitive and compassionate to those they are assisting in the line of duty."
"Most of the departments we represent have very strict policies on camera use," Ed Donnelly, president of the Firefighters Mutual Benevalent Association, said. "If you do use your camera, social media is an absolute no-no."
Many departments and fire companies post pictures on social media during and after a fire showing crews on the job.
Donnelly said that someone who is the victim of a fire is going through the "worst days of their lives" and he doesn't condone any pictures being taken.
Rizzo, however, said the focus in her township is on the first responders who rushed to the scene, and the community that is pulling together in the aftermath of a tragedy.
"This is true Neptune pride and it cannot be overshadowed by a few firefighters who took selfies at a fire scene," she said.
An investigation into the cause of the fire by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office determined it started under the boardwalk on the east side.
Members of the investigative team are looking to speak with anyone who has any information about the fire at 732-988-8000.