Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Fire Country: Is The Series Based On A Real Story?

CBS' "Fire Country" might not have several seasons on the air under its belt, but the series is already resonating with the masses. In March 2023, in the midst of its inaugural season, an average of 10.3 million viewers tuned in each week to see Bode Donovan (Max Thieriot) battle flames and seek redemption as a member of Northern California's prison release firefighting program.

This concept is a unique one that actually exists on the West Coast through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. While Bode, Manny Perez (Kevin Alejandro), and the rest of the firefighters are fictional characters, the program is very much real, and it allows select inmates to work as firefighters, giving them the chance to be granted early parole.

In an interview with Variety, Thieriot said, "Because of growing up in Northern California, it was normal, everyday life for me, seeing conservation camp crews work alongside the highway and on the fire lines driving around. Then I realized folks that aren't from up there, specifically, didn't really know this was a thing a few years ago."

The Cal Fire program — and lack of awareness of its existence — is what inspired Thieriot to write "Fire Country." However, those in charge of the real-life initiative aren't part of the 10.3 million weekly fans.

Cal Fire leadership denounced Fire Country before it even started

Upon the release of the show's trailer, Cal Fire leadership, including director Joe Tyler and Local 2881 president Tim Edwards, sent mass emails to the department denouncing "Fire Country," according to the Los Angeles Times. Tyler wrote, "This television series is a misrepresentation of the professional all-hazards fire department and resource protection agency that Cal Fire is."

Edwards explained to the outlet that, in real life, there's a major issue surrounding the program that isn't depicted on "Fire Country": there aren't enough non-violent inmates available to join due to policy changes and early release during COVID-19. He said, "When all these laws were implemented, not even sending these low-level inmates to jail, you start to get people that were multiple offenders with violent crimes into these [fire] camps. That's a risk not just to my members and the captains, but to the general public." In fact, Edwards wants the program phased out and more trained firefighters hired.

"Fire Country" creators were taken aback by Cal Fire's instant denouncement of the show, especially since consultants are brought in to ensure accuracy. Thieriot said, "I think I was more surprised by how quickly they [weighed in] without having seen anything, and how the opinion came very fast off of a trailer that's cut together to bring in an audience." Showrunner Tia Napolitano stressed that "Fire Country" is, at the end of the day, a drama series, not a documentary.