Firefighter Upon Entry. 2014

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Eight Minutes to a Collapse


Given enough fuel and oxygen, a fire will double in size every thirty seconds. Fire is a rabid animal, moving from room to room consuming everything in its path. Starved for oxygen, it will begin consuming itself. If the fire finds the oxygen it needs, it will furiously explode. Human cultures have always attempted to use this chaotic force for their benefit. For as long has humans have tried to harness this power, there have been people charged with controlling it. Mankind does not accept a wild thing.


“Eight Minutes to a Collapse” is an on-going project about the volunteers of a small fire department in Upstate New York. Here, the members of the department live two lives— volunteering to work in one of the most dangerous professions in the country, then returning to their day jobs as truck drivers, teachers, construction workers, and stay-at-home parents after the engines are back at the station. Behind each emergency is a group of people charged with responding to it. “Eight Minutes to a Collapse” is about the stories of these people, the politics of the organization, and the responsibilities that come with living these dual lives.


The Jordan Volunteer Fire Company protects the small village of Jordan, New York and its surrounding communities. Jordan is a village along the remnants of the Erie Canal fifteen minutes outside of Syracuse. Since the Erie Canal closed in the 1918, the Village of Jordan has been seeing a steady decline in local jobs, and in population. The vast majority of the residents travel to work, if they work at all, in other towns and cities. As of the 2010 census, there are just over 1,300 residents residing in and around the 1.2 sq mi area. Most of the surrounding landscape is used for farming.


The Jordan Volunteer Fire Company has been under the leadership of Chief Doug Milton since 1976, when he was elected to succeed his father, Robert Milton. Doug has held the position ever since, granting the JVFC a unique financial, and managerial stability which has seen the department weather a number of storms that have not spared other volunteer fire departments especially throughout the local area. Some have been simply forced to close their doors, while others are consolidated with other struggling fire departments sharing contiguous districts. The all-volunteer membership of the JVFC is faced with Doug’s looming stepping down as Chief, and without a clear successor all of the stability could be lost.


Seventy percent of the firefighters in the United States are unpaid volunteers. In a job that kills roughly one hundred of its own each year in the United States, the members of the JVFC are not incentivized by money. An intimate balance of loyalty to the community, a sense of duty, and sheer adrenaline consumes them, pulling them away from the responsibilities of their routine lives to a more far reaching calling, another furious disaster.

Car Fire. 2013

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Firefighter Clearing a Building. 2013

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Lt. Burke Ascends Staircase. 2014

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The Officers of the JVFC are Sworn In. 2015

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Chief Doug Milton Commanding Attention During Training. 2015

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Station 24. 2015

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En Route to a Car Fire. 2013

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Capt. Ecker, Inferno. 2014

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Tommy. 2015

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Drill Night. 2015

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Engine 2, Arrived. 2015

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Firefighters Making Entry. 2014

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Firefighter on Overhaul. 2014

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Dispatch Text Messages. 2015

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Illuminating the Fire Ground. 2014

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Ceiling-Fan Fire. 2014

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Keith, Face Mask. 2014

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Ventilation. 2013

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Firefighter in Full Bunker Gear. 2013

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Pete, Hallway. 2013

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Approaching the Fire Room. 2014

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Exterior Operations. 2014

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Deck Gun. 2014

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Firefighters Pulling a Wall. 2014

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