Photography Stunt Burns Down Historic Florida Building


We all know that fire looks great in photos. That’s a fact. But when a pyro-prone photographer tried heating up his pics by burning steel wool, he managed to destroy an 88 year-old national landmark.

The Monroe Station (which was designated a historical place in 2000 and was slated for restoration) burned down at midnight on April 9th 2016, to the horror of the local community. Built in 1928, it was situated within the Big Cypress National Preserve and was one of a pair of stations that remained from an original six that stood on the Tamiami Trail between Tampa and Florida. As a site of historical importance, local residents have felt an immense loss.

Source: NBC2 News

On April 11th, following an investigation into the matter, the unnamed person responsible turned himself in and confessed to authorities. He claimed that he had climbed onto the roof of the wooden structure and attempted “spinning”, while two others on the ground took photos. Spinning has become incredibly popular for night photographers and involves taking a piece of steel wool, setting it alight, and spinning it in a wide arc to produce intense sparks of light in all directions. Apparently an errant spark ignited the aged wood of the building, and after several failed tries to put out the escalating fire, the group ran.

As angry users on Instagram were quick to point out, this wasn’t the first time that photographers have used steel wool for shots at the Monroe Station.

Disgruntled comments were soon directed towards those who had done so and they were quick to defend themselves. Instagram user and poster of similar pictures @michaelcphotography wrote, “I have an excuse, I am in the Caymans till Tuesday on a photoshoot. I wasn’t even in the country, so it wasn’t me….. A shame what happened though.”

What’s even more disconcerting is that this is also not the first recent case of an important structure burning down due to lit steel wool being used on a photo shoot. We reported back in February how a much beloved shipwrecked boat in Point Reyes, California seemed to have been irreparably damaged under similar circumstances.


I think if one lesson is now clear, it’s that photographers have to start lending more consideration to safety precautions and the potential dangers of the location they are shooting in. An abandoned building or boat, constructed primarily of wood, practically broadcasts, ‘Keep fire away from this!‘, to most sensible people. Though burning wool can provide some dazzling results, this is simply basic logic. At the very least, a crew should have been on standby, ready to deal with the situation and fire services warned. The nature of guerilla shoots in unpermitted locations may not always lend itself to these precautions, which lays the burden of practical thinking even more so on the teams carrying out shoots that involve risk. No one wants to see creativity stymied but likewise no one wants to see history destroyed by incidents of utter carelessness.

What’s the worst transgression you’ve seen in the name of getting the perfect shot? Comments below or on Facebook!