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Chicago Fire Got Some Backlash From Real Firefighters When The Show First Premiered

There are many reasons why firefighters are often referred to as heroes by the public. As civilians flee burning buildings for safety, these first responders are running toward the danger, seeking to extinguish the flames and rescue those in danger. All the while, they're fully aware that they might not make it out of these terrifying situations alive. It's a serious job, one that's been spotlighted on Derek Haas and Michael Brandt's "Chicago Fire" since its NBC premiere in October 2012.

For an impressive 11 seasons, the drama has resonated with the masses, earning a slew of accolades and nominations in the process (via IMDB). In many ways, it accurately captures the life of a first responder. It depicts the bravery of entering a blazing home, the stress of simultaneously balancing this chosen career and a family, and the heartbreak felt when forced to leave someone behind.

But "Chicago Fire" is a television show after all, and Taylor Kinney, Eamonn Walker, and the rest of the cast are never actually in harm's way. John Milinac, the show's special effects coordinator and pyrotechnic, explained to Variety how much work goes into safely preparing each scene of catastrophe, from fires to car wreckages. Regarding the former, every aspect is carefully conducted. "Those operators are controlling a manifold of every single flame, whether it is three or 25 fires, with numbers assigned to every pipe and with everyone — director, camera, DPs — agreeing on what are the perfect levels of value for each pipe and height for each flame."

There is much time and effort spent on creating the show's most intense scenes. However, are they accurate as to what these deadly situations are truly like? Well, some real-world firefighters didn't think so at first, resulting in some strong backlash toward "Chicago Fire" in its early days.

Some firefighters felt the Chicago Fire pilot wasn't realistic enough

In a Reddit AMA thread, "Chicago Fire" co-creator Derek Haas reflected on the reaction of real firefighters to the series. He said, "There were quite a few after the pilot who complained that the show wasn't realistic enough. I think we've won a lot of them over as the weeks have progressed. It's fair to criticize. We're doing our best to portray them as realistically as possible while still telling compelling stories."

Reddit user fireman50, a firefighter of over 30 years, praised Haas for creating a show that allows friends and family to better understand what the job is like. As they mention, understanding such work and all that comes with it is difficult without experiencing it firsthand. 

In an interview with GQ, firefighter Gregory Shepherd reacted to a "Chicago Fire" clip, which sees a car crash into a truck filled with propane tanks. Shepherd had some critiques, such as when the department uses the fire truck to tow the car to safety before the inevitable explosion. "The best way to combat that situation would be to get water on the tanks, cool it down, and that's going to limit the risk of it actually exploding," he explained. "I would at least try that before I would jerk a two-ton vehicle with someone in there with head or neck trauma."

Overall, Shepherd decided, "I think 'Chicago Fire' had a good understanding of what we may do, but they added a little too much Hollywood to that."

Still, it must be noted that "Chicago Fire" isn't all "Hollywood." In fact, its actors trained with members of the Chicago Fire Department (via ET). It also helps that cast member Anthony Ferraris – who plays the aptly-named Tony Ferraris on the program — is a Chicago-based firefighter who Haas often consults (via Wolf Entertainment). Ferraris praised the show for depicting life as a firefighter, especially the camaraderie formed at the firehouse.