Robert Keiley, who joined the Fire Department of New York in 2004 and also works as a model, signed up for a photo shoot he thought was intended for a fire prevention ad, his attorney Keith Sullivan said.
Instead, his photograph appeared without his knowledge or permission in an ad for a local law firm that specializes in September 11 legal cases, with the words "I Was There."
"We deeply regret any offense to Mr. Keiley, other firefighters or anyone else that has been hurt by this ad," said Keith McKay, business operations manager for Barker/DZP, the agency that designed the ad.
Agency president John Barker said Barker/DZP purchased the stock photo of Keiley, which he noted was standard procedure.
"At no time did we have any idea, or could we have had any knowledge, that the person in the photo, Robert Keiley, was an actual firefighter, much less a New York City firefighter," he said in a statement.
"This unfortunate coincidence makes the ad into something we never intended it to be."
The ad appeared in a program for a charity sporting event to benefit police and fire departments.
The firefighter wants to see the ad pulled from use altogether, his attorney said.
"Our intention has only been to get this ad pulled, and this photograph destroyed, because he doesn't believe in the commercialization of 9/11," he said. "We are not seeking monetary gain."
The law firm, Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, represents victims seeking compensation under federal law for illnesses stemming from their time at Ground Zero.
It declined comment on the ad.