The producers behind NBC's new drama Chicago Fire continue to take pains to accurately reflect the real world of firefighters — to the point that the show regularly hires off-duty Chicago Fire Department members as extras. It is in that spirit that the drama's world premiere screening, to be held in Chicago, will honor several generations of Windy City firefighters.
More than 100 Chicago firefighters and their families — many of whom come from a long line of firefighters — will be on hand Tuesday night at the Chicago History Museum to celebrate the launch of the show.
"Our story doesn't get told too often because camera crews can't follow us where we go to work," says Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Steve Chikerotis, who serves as a consultant on the show. "We work in 1,300-degree temperatures and zero visibility. It's usually cost prohibitive to put on a good fire episode."
Chikerotis first began advising Hollywood projects as a technical advisor on Ron Howard's1991 film Backdraft, which he admits took quite a bit of license with fire fighting. "I used to try and argue my point to Ron Howard that we wouldn't do it that way," he says. "Ron's standard response was, 'It's not a fire department training film.' They had to Indiana Jones it up."
Chikerotis says he believes Chicago Fire gets it right. "No one's doing it like they're doing it," he says. "Chicago Fire is making an attempt to do it real and sell the emotions that go along with it. The average firefighter throughout the nation will be pretty proud of this show, I think."
Chicago Fire co-creator Derek Haas says the Chicago firefighters employed as extras even bring their own gear to the set. "We couldn't have done the show without the Chicago Fire Department. They bust our asses to make sure when we're doing these scenes that they feel authentic. The one thing we say [about] having firemen as extras is you realize with every scene you want to make these guys proud. How can you act like a jerk when the guy standing next to you will be running into a burning building tomorrow?"
Chicago Fire debuts Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10/9c on NBC. Coincidentally, that's the 141st anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which took place from Oct. 8 to 10 in 1871.