Saturday, October 13, 2012

Television - Is It the "Great Wasteland" for the Fire Service?

For many years, there were several occupations that were/are depicted on television and , for the most part, were pretty safe bets for shows, i.e. cops, doctors, and attorneys. So, who's missing from this picture? How about firefighters?

Sure, there have been a few shows about firefighters, such as, "EMERGENCY," from NBC, back in the 1970's. Though Johnny Gage was occasionally set-up to look like a womanizer, its original executive producer, Jack Webb, of "DRAGNET" fame, was dedicated to representing the profession, plus the new vocation of, "paramedics," accurately. Sure, there was some dramatic license taken, but for the most part, it never insulted the intelligence of most firefighters who watched the show, and it actually contributed to many people choosing to become firefighters, paramedics, and/or EMT's. To me, that is a contribution to society.

There were a few others dramas as well, including, "Firehouse" and "Code Red," neither of which had a major impact on their ratings or the industry. Most recently, there was, "Rescue Me," by Denis Leary. In the beginning, the show was decent, but somewhere in the first or second season when Leary's character raped his ex-wife, the show's credibility dropped dramatically.

And now comes, "Chicago Fire," produced by Dick Wolf, of the various, "Law & Order" franchises. As noted above, shows about cops and lawyers have proved a good formula, on the most part. And Wolf certainly brought a great deal of "street cred" to this production. Unfortunately, he must have left his credibility back in the office when he arrived on-set to producer, "Chicago Fire."

I recorded the premiere of  "Chicago Fire," the other evening and just watched the first twenty minutes. Now I am the first to admit that I've been out of the active service since 1985, thus I'm not sure if what I saw on this show are new SOP's (standard operating procedures) for most departments today, or were just Hollywood "make-believe."

Here are three major weaknesses to the fire service credibility that I saw in these first 20 minutes: 

1. Working House Fire-White smoke showing from the first floor, with a strong orange glow being seen from the cab of the first arrival apparatus in the first floor interior. Fire had not vented yet. Chief's size-up report to Central is as he exits his vehicle, with no 360 assessment. First crew approaches front door and without any looking, checking, etc., punches in the door with a Halligan, enters without a hose. When the Chief is told that a victim's brother is upstairs & had not exited the building, the aerial is raised and two firefighters approach the window. The closest one takes his Halligan and punches in the window without knowing if the fire has been vented. The firefighter behind him tried to stop him. The window breaks and the first firefighter says, "See, it must be vented," and enters the room. Suddenly, the firefighter on the 1st floor says there's no vent and the upper room backdrafts, killing the firefighter in that room. 

2. At an MVC, (Motor Vehicle Collision) they find a couple of victims in the car, but no driver. Then, one firefighter looks at the river and declares the driver was ejected, over the railing of the bridge, into the river, below. Two rescue firefighters suit-up and as they're making their way into the river, someone else yells that one of the people looking on is the driver, and another firefighter runs over and tackles him. 

3. In the firehouse, one of the EMT's passes one of the lead character firefighters and hands him a vial of some medication. He moves to a private area and shoots up. At that point, I hit the stop button. So, I ask you, is this a fairly true representation of the CFD (Chicago Fire Department) and/or where firefighting in general, has gone since I retired? 

In my mind, while I understand the drama and the need for conflict, whether it be on-the-job or through-the-job, I believe that my brave and dedicated colleagues of the Chicago Fire Department are some of the best in the business and even with a well-experienced, Deputy Chief as the technical advisor, these three scenes did an injustice to the men and women of CFD. Why is it that most shows about doctors, cops, and attorneys are fairly true to the profession and its only us, firefighters, who are thrown under the proverbial bus?

On the off-chance that you may agree with me and believe that it is time for a program to present and accurate and true representation of America's fire service, by the men and women who actually serve every day, please visit Dalmatian Productions, Inc.

 Be safe and let's make sure everyone comes home!

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