Eyes of Fire

Photography by Dr. Elsburgh Clarke
Above: Fire at the Raber Packing Co., November 2018. The Limestone Fire Department requested a mutual aid response from the Peoria Fire Department and other surrounding fire companies to help them fight this massive fire. Peoria Fire Chief Ed Olehy, Jr., and Battalion Chief Jim Bachman responded with an engine and ladder truck to assist.

A behind-the-scenes look at the Peoria Fire Department

How do you like to begin your weekends? For Dr. Elsburgh Clarke, it’s often not with a drink, but with a camera… and a ride-along with the Peoria Fire Department. “Even as a child growing up, I was attracted to the Fire Department,” he explains. “I was either going to be a fireman, FBI agent or a doctor. We know how that turned out!” 

Dr. Clarke bought his first SLR camera during his first year of medical school. “I began shooting candid shots in the ER,” he explains. “I also learned how to shoot sports, [including] NASCAR, NFL and college football.” It’s a passion that has continued for four decades, including the last 17 years here in Peoria.


Above left: a “mutual aid” response from the Peoria Fire Department to a fire in Dunlap. In emergency services, mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries. At right, a ladder truck from Peoria’s Central House Station 1 assisting with a mutual aid fire in East Peoria.

As an emergency physician, Dr. Clarke established relationships with paramedics, EMTs and firefighters—this access afforded him a glimpse of activities that usually take place behind the scenes. “I have access to all the fire calls and will respond to structure fires or major incidents when I'm not working in the ER,” he explains.

He recently published Eyes of Fire—his third book of photo essays on the Peoria Fire Department—adding to his catalog of books on the Peoria Police Department, the ER and other topics of interest. “It captures the intensity and dedication of their profession as they risk their lives serving the citizens of Peoria,” he adds. “It is a ‘snapshot’ into the life of a Peoria firefighter.” a&s

Eyes of Fire is available for purchase at blurb.com.

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