Trip to the Kearny New Jersey Fire Department


Audrey Gavagan

While visiting the fire department in Kearny, New Jersey, Audrey tours the building and views fire trucks.

Lauren Fischbach, Staff Writer

They see these things that the general public doesn’t see. Very few people will be inside a burning building and these people do it on a weekly, if not daily basis.

— Audrey Gavagan

It’s the summer of 2021 and Audrey Gavagan, a senior at Mendham High School, has decided to take action. After some convincing on her father’s behalf, she decided to take the opportunity to visit a fire department in Kearny, New Jersey for the day to take photographs and interview the brave firefighters. On August 24th, she arrived at the fire department, intrigued by almost everything the very second that she walked in the door. 

However, this didn’t all happen out of nowhere. Audrey had always been inspired by photography. As a little girl, she would steal her mother’s iPhone and run into her backyard to take pictures of all the things around her. During the quarantine of 2020, she really discovered her passion for photography. She found an old camera that her grandmother had gifted her and spent her days going into her backyard photographing the leaves, the flowers, and her cats. Audrey says, “over winter break of this year, I got a better camera and took even more pictures because I liked using the camera more.” She slowly discovered her love for photography, however, she hadn’t considered photography as a real career until later on in her life. 

On January 6th of 2021, there was an attack on the United States capitol. This event and the media buzz surrounding it truly made Audrey realize how important “the truth of journalism and the press” were. She realized how she could combine her passion for photography and journalism and impact people to make a difference. 

This was when Audrey decided to visit the Kearny New Jersey Fire Department. Through a father’s friend, she was invited to spend the day at the department, interviewing and photographing all the firefighters in action. After arriving, Audrey explains, “you’re just in there and they have all this equipment that […] you really don’t see anywhere else.” From the big trucks to the fire gear hanging on the walls, the whole department is stocked with all kinds of fire equipment. She also explains, “I was intrigued by all the camaraderie and the closeness that you saw between these firefighters.” The Kearny Fire Department is non-volunteer, meaning that these firefighters work 24 hour shifts and “they live in the department when they are working.” Because of the close living quarters between the firefighters, having to live in dorms during their shifts, their closeness has grown exponentially, creating strong bonds and friendship between them. Audrey says, “when you see firefighters out doing their jobs, you don’t realize that” and you don’t realize the bonds between them. 

Audrey also speaks of the stories and legends of the firefighters saying, “they all have stories” and that some even have “near death experiences.” She elaborates that, “they see these things that the general public doesn’t see. Very few people will be inside a burning building and these people do it on a weekly, if not daily basis.”

These men and their incredible stories, saving lives, and their courage all blew Audrey away, enough so that she says she plans to go back soon and interview them to get the details. 

While caught up in the action and hustle of their everyday routines, Audrey took approximately a whopping 1500 photos. Her photos ranged from trucks, uniforms, tools, equipment, to their living areas and action photos. In fact, Audrey says, “I do have a favorite photo.” The firefighters had just gotten back from a call and removed all their gear to settle in when they receive another one. She explains, “I have a series of pictures of this one firefighter […] getting all into his gear and then putting on the jacket, the helmet, the pants, everything, and then […] running towards the fire trucks so they could go back out.” 

When asked if Audrey plans on doing any projects similar to this one, she answers, “I would like to,” and “I may actually go to a few different fire departments, I’d like to do fire departments in New York City.” After being so inspired by the fire department in Kearny, she hopes to later go on to photograph fire departments in New York and the stress of being expected to protect and serve around 8 million people. She also states, “and obviously I would like to do more different photojournalism projects.” As for now, her goal is to get her photos and work at the fire department published somewhere, whether it be a local newspaper or website. 

Her plan for the future is to be a photojournalist on a national level and she would love to cover international stories as well. She hopes and dreams of educating the public and informing them on global issues to promote change and impact through her passion. Audrey explains, “this is a way [for me] to do something I love and create […] meaning in the world.”