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Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders September 13, 2020

Viral photo of resting firefighters happened in Tennessee in 2016, not California in 2020

If Your Time is short

  • The photo is from 2016 in Tennessee.

Almost four years ago, a snapshot of exhausted Tennessee firefighters napping on a sidewalk went viral on social media and TV.

The photo is authentic. But it’s being shared again without proper context in 2020 during the West Coast wildfires.

Here’s an example from Facebook:

"These are some of the firefighters in California fighting fires 24/7 to save people's lives and property and they seem to get little-to-no mention," the user wrote. "THESE are my heroes.....and I will support them and the police who support them with my every breath."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Featured Fact-check

The description about California is not accurate. The photo shows firefighters from the Johnson City fire department in Northeast Tennessee. 

The firefighters were responding to a fire in Gatlinburg that started in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Nov. 23, 2016. Fueled by high winds and a drought, it swelled into the deadliest wildfire in state history, killing 14 people.

Adam Scott Momberger shared the photo of resting firefighters on his Facebook page on Nov. 29, 2016. "As close as we got to seeing sleep in 36 hours," he wrote.

His photo attracted the attention of national media and celebrities. "They’re my heroes," wrote Ellen DeGeneres.

As for the new Facebook post, the photo is real, but the user’s caption is inaccurate. We rate the post False.

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Viral photo of resting firefighters happened in Tennessee in 2016, not California in 2020

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