A volunteer firefighter in Westchester County, New York, Fuchs is also a journalist and author of the critically acclaimed true crime thriller A Cold-Blooded Business (2009). Before publishing that work, he covered the story extensively for The New York Times. He is currently a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College. Fuchs has a wife and three children.
The author’s newest, Local Heroes: Portraits of American Volunteer Firefighters (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., $45.00), was published in October of last year. The book contains text by Fuchs and photography by Ian Spanier. The book has since received effusive praise; Parade called it “riveting” while ABC News credited Fuchs for his “lively text” and The Daily Mail (UK) heralded Spanier’s portraits as “quietly dignified.”
From the publisher:
"Firefighters are the unsung local heroes of every community. They protect our towns and cities, risk their lives, and give up their free time when the alarm sounds. Through beautiful photography and engaging text, take a glimpse into the lives of these men and women, all of them volunteer, including an Emmy-winning songwriter, an arborist, a lawyer, and a topographic mapmaker. Experience a sampling of life at firehouses from around the country: a 100-year-old department in a small New York town, an ""Old South"" department in one of America's poorest counties
Now, Marek Fuchs invites readers beyond the line of fire…
1) What precipitated your involvement with LOCAL HEROES? How did the project evolve from concept to book?
Ian Spanier, a renowned photographer who grew up in my town, showed up at my firehouse one day to take photos. His work was brilliant and we got to talking about how if, working in cahoots, we found some of the most interesting volunteer firefighters in America and chronicled them in words as well as photos, we could tell a story that is as important as any, but too often ignored. Volunteer firefighting seems a relic of a lost America, a more innocent and giving time, but is actually quite vibrant, the center of many communities. Next thing we knew we had a book contract and were traveling the nation.
2) Tell us about the process of writing text to accompany the photographs. How did the imagery inspire your words?
The imagery didn't necessarily inspire the words - or the words the imagery - because Ian and I visited the firehouses and photographed and interviewed the firefighters together. We conducted our interviews and photographs side-by-side. In that sense, our subjects - their passions, fears, strengths, vanities and searing memories - inspired both the words and images.
3) In addition to being a writer/journalist and teacher, you are a volunteer firefighter. Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences and how these might have influenced what you wanted to convey in the book?
Being a volunteer firefighter gave me a sense of the scope of calls firefighters go on: from fires to car accidents to floods and beyond - and in between. Everything from false alarms to fallen live wires to cataclysmic fires of rows of wood-frame apartment buildings and cars tumbling down cliffs. I also had the sense of the big personalities that tend to be drawn to running into fires voluntarily, souls with the greatest combination of good hearts and love for adrenaline.
4) Can you briefly compare and contrast the process of writing this book with A COLD-BLOODED BUSINESS? What is the key to capturing the essence of a story?
A Cold-Blooded Business was a book based on a murder story I covered for The New York Times for several years. In that sense it was much different: a story about taking lives versus saving them. But, in the end, telling any story is a matter of immersing yourself in the lives of your subjects, then providing a narrative structure so that what you write is more than a collection of words. You want it to say something and stand for something.
5) Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?
Ian and I are cooking up something good. But I can't tell you what it's about or I'd have to kill you.
With thanks to Marek Fuchs for his generous contribution of time and thought.
America’s Volunteer Firefighters: we salute you!