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Photo courtesy of Shane Klug.

A Picture in Flames: Through the Lens of a Detroit Firefighter


“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here,” Shane Klug says of his place of work, the city of Detroit.

Klug has had two jobs in his life. The first was as a stock boy at a grocery store. In September of 2002, Klug applied to the Detroit Fire Department with the hopes of being hired, not only because it was his dream job, but because it would allow him the financial benefit of not having to pay for the fire academy out of pocket.

“I applied to Detroit …and I hit the lotto,” Klug said in a phone interview.

But, why Detroit?

“I wanted to be a fireman in the big city,” Klug said. “You look at a New York fireman or a Chicago fireman…I wanted to be a Detroit fireman…I live here. [Detroit’s] my big city.”

“There’s a certain sense of pride that comes with being a Detroit fireman ‘cause it is a gritty town, a tough town,” he continued. “We are busy. We work with less than adequate equipment, so there is a certain mystique that goes with that, I guess, and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the guys I work with and what we do.”

Occupied #detroit #detroitfire

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In going to training sessions with firefighters from “other tough towns,” Klug started sharing photos with these firefighters of what they were seeing back home on the job. One such firefighter from Camden, New Jersey decided to post some of his photos on Instagram. Seeing this, Klug decided to give the social media site a shot, albeit apprehensively.

“I was like, ‘What is an Instagram? It sounds like a fad,’” Klug said. “‘It sounds like something that won’t be here next week.’ As I started to see it grow, I wanted to do what he was doing, so I gotta give a lot of credit to [my friend in Camden]. He’s the one who inspired me to do it.”

Today, Klug has more than 9,000 followers on Instagram under the handle ‘dfdlad26,’ having shared close to 1,400 photos.

Happy Devils Night #detroit #detroitfire #deathofmotorcity

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Posting his photos publicly on Instagram was due to more than just a friend’s inspiration. Klug wanted people to see the parts of Detroit that he feels go unseen by a majority of people that visit the city.

“A lot of people think of Detroit as Comerica Park or going to a hockey game or going to Cobo Hall,” Klug said. “They don’t really know that there’s a lot more to Detroit than just the couple square miles of downtown. There’s another hundred and thirty-something square miles of neighborhoods that people kind of just don’t know exist.”

As for the reception Klug has received from his Instagram account, “I’ve gotten a very wide response from, like, ‘Hey, thanks for putting out the truth,’ to I’m a Detroit basher and everything in between,” Klug said.

“People think that if you put out what’s deemed a negative photo that you hate the city and you’re stifling its growth and that’s not really my goal at all,” Klug continued. “My goal is to bring awareness or a little bit of shock value.”

While Klug is passionate about sharing the parts of Detroit he sees on a daily basis, he doesn’t overestimate its ability to affect positive change for the city.

“If there was an ultimate goal [for my Instagram page], I would love for it to bring awareness to the right people or somebody to magically wave their wand and fix it all, but that’s unrealistic…If I’m bringing awareness to people, that’s cool.”

You can follow Klug on Instagram @dfdlad26.