Regarding “Bill Noonan: Fire Photographer, Boston Fire Department (Firehouse®, April 2011): K7 is the radio signature for the on-duty Photo Unit of the Boston Fire Department. Bill Noonan, K7, has closed out an outstanding career as a firefighter and photographer and it seems that a few comments should be made, one photographer to another.
Bill grew up in Orange, MA, about 75 miles from Boston. His dad, Robert, had a sideline as a photographer and was a “Spark” (New England parlance for a buff). These two factors no doubt influenced Bill along both lines, being a “Spark” and a photographer. A year-long photography course at the Franklin Institute provided a strong foundation for Bill’s future photo work.
I met Bill through a mutual friend about 1970, when we’d be hanging out at the Howard Johnson’s near Boston Fire Headquarters. It was the centrally located spot to be close to the areas of highest fire activity and also close to the expressway – a gathering point for “Sparks.” Shortly thereafter, Bill entered the BFD and was assigned to Engine 3. During my semi-annual trips home to Lawrence, we would occasionally see each other. We both were at the beginning of our respective careers.
As the years passed, we became closer friends and I developed a greater interest in photography. Always willing to share his knowledge and experience, Bill was unique. Unlike today, not everyone was a photographer and automatic digital cameras were in the very distant future. Everything was “manual.” Bill would share his experience on film, f stops, flash use...everything.
The most valuable lesson from K7 was quite simple and I have never forgotten it. After the fire is out, “hang around.” Take pictures of the members. Fire and rig pictures are one thing. “The firefighters will really appreciate the pictures of themselves, it’s more important than the fire.” Needless to say, I listened closely and some of my most rewarding photos are of firefighters. Above all other facets of his work, Bill has been dedicated to memorializing the members of the BFD doing what they do every day.
Professional, accomplished author, historian and-all around good guy, I am proud to call K7, Bill Noonan, a close friend. There will be no other like him.
The writer was born in and grew up in Lawrence, MA. He is a senior vice president with Starr Technical Risks in Chicago and a Fire Protection Engineer. He says, “I’ve been taking pictures for over 40 years, but really started taking photography seriously as Bill and I became good friends.”
photo – forum_Vanarsdale.jpg
Firefighter/Medic William Vanarsdale of the Prince George’s County, MD, Fire/EMS Department was omitted from the Firehouse® Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards coverage in the April issue. He received a $100 award for his actions at a Nov. 5. 2010, house fire. As other firefighters stretched hoselines and fought the fire, Vanarsdale and Firefighter James “Kyle” Schultz entered through the rear in search of a 70-year-old male trapped inside. Despite blinding smoke and intense heat, they made an aggressive search. Upon locating the man in a bedroom, they removed him to the dwelling’s exterior.