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Super Bowl ad spotlights TV show disavowed by CAL FIRE

CAL FIRE Chief Joe Tyler criticized the series “Fire Country” as a misrepresentation of the department, loaded with inaccuracies

By Timothy Karoff

SAN FRANCISCO — CBS just used 30 seconds of coveted Super Bowl ad time to air a spot for the new season of “Fire Country,” a procedural drama about California firefighters fighting wildfires. But the show is so unrealistic that Cal Fire issued a statement condemning it when its first season came out.

In the Sunday ad, the show’s firefighter protagonist sits alone in a room, watching as B-roll footage of “Fire Country” firefighters is projected onto the wall. He stands, faces the viewer and offers an impassioned speech.

“Every time you suit up could be the last chance you’ll ever get to lay it all on the line,” he says, his voice oozing drama. “To fight with the person next to you and for the person next to you. To be remembered as someone who faced the fire and never flinched.”

The acting, to put it bluntly, is not very good. (“That ad for the show Fire Country has me rooting for the fire,” one user wrote on social media.)

“Ok that fire country ad also made me want to die a little,” another posted.

“Fire Country” focuses on Bode Donovan, a Northern California man who volunteers as an inmate firefighter to shave time off his prison sentence after he robbed a liquor store at gunpoint. He’s stationed in his Northern California hometown, serving alongside professional firefighters as they battle the state’s wildfires.

California’s inmate firefighter program is controversial, as inmate firefighters make just dollars a day for dangerous work. “Fire Country” largely sidesteps these controversies. The show is also loaded with inaccuracies, and it dramatizes conflicts between inmate firefighters and professional firefighters, which was one of Cal Fire’s major complaints:

“This television series is a misrepresentation of the professional all-hazards fire department and resource protection agency that Cal Fire is,” Cal Fire Chief Joe Tyler wrote in the agency’s statement disavowing the show in 2022. “The dramatization of inmate firefighters fighting members of Cal Fire is a poor reflection of the value of our Camps Program and the incredible work and leadership of our Fire Captains who supervise our hand crews.”


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