Originally created 07/18/02

Department investigates teen photos on Internet



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville fire department began an internal investigation this week after sexy photographs taken of at least one teen-age girl using fire and rescue equipment was displayed on a Web site linked to pornography.

Although the site itself did not include any nudity, it features teen-age girls from 14 to 17 modeling swimsuits and lingerie and posing in themed pictures as a schoolgirl, cheerleader or tennis player.

The pictures with fire equipment as a backdrop show a 16-year-old model named Joanna in various outfits, including swimsuits and a schoolgirl outfit with a vintage volunteer fire truck in the background.

The vintage truck is not in service and is being kept in a fire station in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood.

However, another photo shows a girl in a short dress looking over her shoulder with both hands on a city-owned rescue truck. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office faced a similar situation in 2000 after officers were caught with strippers staging a photo shoot to win a picture contest for a radio station. One of the women was dressed as Wonder Woman.

The other, wearing only a police hat, miniskirt and bra, was photographed with squad cars. Fire department spokesman Tom Francis said a rescue unit and a volunteer fire truck from Station 27 in Arlington were used in the photos.

The investigation is to determine whether anyone gave permission to use the equipment involved, Mr. Francis said.

He said he was bewildered when first told about the photographs by a newspaper reporter.

"Naturally, the fire department doesn't promote this kind of activity and it was done without any department knowledge," he said.

Jacksonville photographer Kerry Nelson is listed as the photographer and contact for the Web site. He said he went to the fire station and asked whether he could take some photographs and was given permission.

When questioned about the links to pornographic sites, Mr. Nelson said he was unaware the links were there and said he would remove them immediately.

Within a short time, he had done so; he also removed photos that featured the city-owned equipment.

"I'm not targeting pornographic Web sites because I don't want to be associated with that," Mr. Nelson said, "but I can't help what those link pages have on them."

All the girls on the Web site have parental consent and a parent is required to be at the photo shoots, he said.

"Even as a photographer, I don't even take nude pictures of anybody. I don't care how old they are. That's not art," Mr. Nelson said.

The Web site - which said it has been visited more than 3.6 million times since last year - is registered to Mr. Nelson, according to an Internet registry database.