home


Paul Thayer was a Fire Buff and Pulitzer Prize Winning Photo Journalist whose dedication to documenting the heroics of FDNY Firefighters resulted in his being awarded the Department's highest civilian honor of Honorary Deputy Chief. During the "war years" of the 1950s to early 1970s, Paul spent thousands of hours riding with Harlem fire companies capturing the vivid images displayed on this website. Operating from a darkroom located in the basement of Rescue Company 1, he would develop prints, and give them (free of charge) to the firefighters who were his subjects.

Paul wrote a weekly column in the "Civil Service Leader" in which (via his contacts throughout FDNY) Paul provided first-hand accounts of rescues and other worthy acts by firefighters citywide. He also recognized retirees for their long service, as well as other items of interest to firefighters. In the early 70's, Paul's column became a running account of deaths and injuries related to wholesale fire company eliminations...primarily in the city's most fire-prone areas.

As a result of Paul's criticism and amid threats to strip him of his Honorary Deputy Chief designation, Fire Commissioner, John T. O'Hagan, barred him from Fire Department property. This forced Paul to dismantle his darkroom at Rescue Company 1. Undeterred, until his death in 1977, Thayer continued to document the disastrous toll fire department cutbacks were taking on firefighters and civilians. At Paul Thayer's funeral, hundreds of firefighters lined the street to give a final salute to one who they rightfully considered to be one of their own.