Meet Volunteer Firefighter Jan Ohmen a.k.a Feuerreport

Jan is a voluntary firefighter and accompanies all kinds of rescue operations with his camera. The photos are published on his successful Instagram account @feuerreport. The goal is to not only provide insights of the everyday life of first responders, but also to arouse interest and encourage others to volunteer as a firefighter.

Hello Jan! You are a voluntary firefighter, a full-time nurse and you accompany many rescue operations with your camera. What rouse your interest in rescue operations?

My neighbour was a voluntary fireman. When I was 12, he told me that the youth fire brigade was looking for new members and suggested me to join. I went there and now I’ve been an active voluntary fireman for 8 years.

You have a full-time job, you show a high degree of social commitment and you almost do daily posts on your Instagram account @feuerreport. How does an ordinary day in your life look like?

I work full-time in the hospital but luckily the shift work in the hospital creates room for photography. After work or on my days off, I drive to deployment sites to take photos for public relation purposes.

What would you say has been your most exciting operation so far?

I learn more with every rescue operation and on every site there’s something exciting. The most formative/crucial experience though was a big fire in a warehouse in Düsseldorf, Germany this year. It was truly dangerous as an uncontrolled explosion occurred and some firemen were critically wounded. Luckily, I was standing 100 meters away hidden behind a fire truck at the moment the explosion happened. This experience made me realise that it’s sometimes hard to clearly classify risks and that what we do can be highly dangerous.

Rescue operation accounts on Instagram are still quite unique. How did you start with this and why do you think it’s important to share these photos on social media platforms?

I think it’s very important these days to not limit the platform for public relations to print -, TV- and online media. Particularly with Instagram a huge audience can be reached. My goal is to show the human behind the uniform, not the happenings themselves. A lot of followers have questions regarding rescue and medical trainings, apprenticeships and other professions related to rescue. If just one of them decides to join a relief organization or engages in voluntary actions, I achieved my goal.

There are recent debates in Germany about passers-by who hinder rescue operations by gawping or even by taking photos with their mobile phones. Did you already experience this during your work and what's essential for your work as a professional photographer at operation sites?

First of all, it must be differentiated: I am not gawping, I report professionally about happenings in close collaboration with emergency personnel. Additionally, I support the police with aerial drone shots for diligent accident reports.

I am personally confronted with gapers/gazers each day. They keep on asking me questions about what exactly happened and take photos of the deployment site without doubting whether they hinder the rescue work or invade the privacy of injured persons. Most of the time they stop after I explained them to. In other they unfortunately show very occasions intransigent behaviour.

As a journalist, it’s highly important to communicate every action with the rescue team. Most of them know and trust me so that I can provide good support. However, photographing patients, affected persons or license plats is definitely a No-go. These are just examples- there’s a long list of thing that need to be taken into account.

Do you take all the photos yourself or do you corporate with other photographers?

All pictures on the Instagram account @feuerreport were taken by myself within the last years.

What photography equipment do you usually use during operations?

I use the PELI 1560LFC Protector Laptop where I store a Canon 6D Mark II, a Sony CX900, two objective lenses (Canon L-Series 24-70mm and Canon L-Series 70-200mm). For most operations I take the tablet, Macbook as well as chargers and batteries which all perfectly fits into the Peli case.

What feature do you like the most on your case?

What I like the most about the case are the wheels. Many deployment sites are difficult to access or far away from the place where a car can be parked. Thus the wheels make it more convenient to reach the place and I don’t have to worry to damage my gear as the case is extremely robust.

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