Chicago Fire meets Peoria firefighters

By Joe Bennett

February 20, 2013 Updated Feb 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- We recently sat down with one crew at Peoria's Fire Station 3 to watch an episode of Chicago Fire and see if they find the show relatable.

While we were visiting the set in Chicago, we spoke with Eamonn Walker who plays Battalion Chief Wallace Boden.

Walker says even the cast and crew ask themselves, "How do we go about doing that so that when other firemen and firewomen see, or paramedics, see themselves via this show, they know that it's as accurate as possible, within the framework of a T.V. drama?"

These days costumes, special effects, and documentary-style film-making can make an audience feel as though they are witnessing an actual house fire.

Local fire fighters say when television goes too far to make fiction seem realistic, it's easy for them to see past the smoke and mirrors.

"It's hard to watch shows like that," says Peoria firfighter Shawn Sollberger. "It'd be kind of like a painter sitting back watching somebody and go, 'That's not how you paint. That's not even how you do it at all."

"You kind of see through the show a little bit and see the parts that are more made for TV," says firefighter Adam Smith.

Smith, a 7-year veteran, says what you can't see through is smoke and flame on a real fire call.

"It's dark, can't see anything at all," Smith says. Flashlights don't really help. It's just kind of like headlights in a fog. In TV of course, it wouldn't be a very good camera shot if everything was just black."

However that's not the focus of Chicago Fire, according to its cast and crew.

David Eigenberger, who plays firefighter Christopher Herrmann on the show, says "It's about what the characters are doing in situations, real-life situations, relationship situations, love-affairs, hate-affairs, and you never know what's going to happen with these guys.."

"I would say that part of the show is probably most accurate, just as far as the comradery," Smith says. "Everyone here, it's like a family, just as it's portrayed on there."

These fire fighters say the more character-driven plot points do realistically explore elements of their lives.

"I spend way more time with these guys than I do with my own family," says Sollberger. "My wife works a normal shift, my kids are in school so you've got like a small window where you're actually physically with them. You create some really strong bonds, because you just spend so much time with these people."

The crew of station 3 say their families find the show more relatable than they do.

The dramatized action is just enough to keep them from getting hooked, but they say more attention to detail may make them join the millions of people who do watch Chicago Fire each week.

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