It may not be getting the buzz that many other freshman shows have enjoyed, but make no mistake; NBC’s “Chicago Fire” has quietly been building in ratings and overall viewership since its September debut. .
While the show really needs no explanation as it’s about just what the title says, firefighters in Chicago, viewers might be curious to know if the inner workings of the fire department as seen on the action-packed drama are truly accurate.
To discuss just that, two real life firefighters have agreed to share their thoughts on the authenticity of the show
One is a forty year veteran who recently retired as Chief of a Midwestern city with a population of nearly 10,000, while the other has been with the fire department for seven years in a suburb of a major metropolitan city with a population of roughly 75,000. Since both men asked that I not used their names, I’ll refer to the Chief simply as Chief and the seven-year-vet as Joe.
With regard to the politics and the hierarchy of the staff within the department as portrayed on the show, both men agree that these aspects of the drama are pretty true to life.
Chief Ed remarked that he likes and can associate with the Chief on the show, Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker), while Joe says that he truly feels for the new members of the squad, particularly Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett), remembering when he was new and how he felt when he first joined the squad.
Joe wanted to point out that he’s still with the same squad that he started with and believes that the majority of firefighters don’t move from house to house. “In my experience,” he says, “Most firefighters grow up in the neighborhood somewhere close to where they end up working. I mean, that was some of the appeal to becoming a firefighter for me; I saw the firemen in my neighborhood when I was young and I wanted to be like them. Now, I work in a house that’s only 6 miles from my parents and most of my family.”
The family aspect of the show is realistic to both men as well. “Firefighting is often carried from generation to generation,” explains Joe. “My dad wasn’t a firefighter, but my uncle was and his son is. Maybe my son will be one day. So when you see on the show that both Mills’ and Severide’s (Taylor Kinney) fathers were firemen, that’s totally believable.”
The Chief also has a son who currently works in the house that his father recently retired from.
When discussing the action on the show, the Chief says that there is obviously more action on the show than what took place within his department. Joe agrees, saying, "We go on a lot of calls, but we still don't go on as many calls as they seem to on the show." Both men understand that because it’s a television show, “Chicago Fire” clearly has to have more calls, thus more action, than the average firehouse.
Joe went on to say that he really likes that not every call on the show is a fire. “We respond to a lot of different types of situations, some you can’t even begin to imagine. I mean, what do you do when you get in a situation that you can’t get out of? You call the fire department, right?”
One thing that both men agree on is that the fires themselves, as shown on “Chicago Fire” are not very realistic. “It’s not that they don’t know how to show it, it’s that for them to show a fire to an audience, the audience has to be able to see it,” says Joe.
“In most cases you can’t see at all in fire,” explains the Chief. “Typically, you only find people in a fire by crawling, because of the heat, and moving your arms around because you can’t see anything.”
Obviously, both men watch the show, but do they actually watch it in the house with other firefighters? As he’s retired, the Chief is no longer in the firehouse on a regular basis so clearly he doesn’t, but Joe says, ‘Actually, we do watch it in the house. Unless, of course, we’re out on a call.”
All in all, both men are happy the that show has been well received. Joe, in particular, hopes that "Chicago Fire" remains on the air for years to come. "It's very cool to have a show on TV about your job. And, I think this one is really good, it's not smaltzy or gimmicky. I think they're doing a good job in showing what we really do. I'd like to see the show run for a long time."
“Chicago Fire” airs on Wednesday nights at 10e/9c on NBC.
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