What fire service TV show would you recommend a rookie firefighter binge-watch?
Yes, there are many and they offer varying degrees of quality or realism, but fire service TV shows can help new members – or at least entertain them
The rookie seems a bit … green – clueless about firehouse culture but showing respect, nervous whenever the alarm sounds but absorbing everything around them, and pumped each time the apparatus rolls out of the bay, ready to work.
This is all par for the course. You’ll show the rookie how it’s done at your station. They’ll get it, eventually. But maybe you can speed their absorption of fire service culture – or at least offer them a fun injection of station life.
Enter fire service TV shows.
Yes, there are many and they offer varying degrees of quality or realism, but fire service TV shows do matter. So, let’s have a little viewing fun. We asked some of our FireRescue1 contributors what fire service TV shows they would recommend a rookie firefighter binge-watch.
What would you add to the list and why? Fill out the form below to share your favorite show.
“Rescue Me” (2004-2011)
“’Rescue Me,’ while rough around the edges, shows realistic firehouse living while also showing how a truly diverse group of firefighters can work together and execute in the toughest of circumstances – and it’s hilarious.”
— Trevor Frodge, lieutenant, West Chester Fire Department, Ohio
“‘Rescue Me’ is a little more in your face than most firefighting shows or movies out there. Some may not agree with the banter and drama that fills the screen, however, it captures the chaos that comes with dealing with tragedy and continuing to serve. Day in and day out, firefighters are people who face just as many challenges off duty as they do on. Striking a balance between the two is difficult, and this shows that no matter what, you are not alone.”
— Jimmy Pribyl, captain, Turkey Creek Fire Rescue, North Carolina
“Live Rescue” (2019-Present)
“‘Live Rescue’ shows responders from different regions and showcases some of the similarities and differences that they bring to responses. It's always helpful for new people to get out of their heads a bit and see different ways to tackle a problem besides how their agency has always done it. Sometimes, by seeing another tactic or method, we can spur conversations and evaluate how we respond. This can lead to a culture of continuous improvement and striving to adopt new and innovative tactics and strategies. On a lighter note, I know of an agency in our area that finally got polo uniform shorts because their command staff realized they looked nice on some of the responders from the southeastern U.S. when they watched an episode of ‘Live PD.’ You can also watch a response and discuss with a new firefighter how they would have handled the situation.”
— Andrew Beck, training officer, Mandan City (N.D.) Fire Department
“‘Emergency!’ was certainly a shot in the arm (no pun intended) for firefighter-paramedics in the 1970s. I personally credit ‘Emergency!’ for my entering the fire/EMS business. I learned quickly that TV-fire-life and real-fire-life were dynamically different. While the IDLH realism always leaves something to be desired, the recognition of the perils our firefighters face and our communities experience is alive and well in today’s TV series like ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘9-1-1.’ While ‘Emergency!’ was all about business, today’s shows delve into personal relationships and soap-opera style dramatics that I suppose expand the shows appeal to more people.
— Marc Bashoor, fire chief (retired)
"Chicago Fire" (2012-Present)
"Admittedly, I’ve fallen behind in the seasons, but 'Chicago Fire' would be my recommendation for fire service TV shows. I love the big personalities inside a big Chicago firehouse. Chief Boden is the intimidating chief officer, with the other cast members successfully mixing in their own uniqueness into the dynamic. I like how NBC combined 'Chicago PD' and 'Chicago Med' into the fold to showcase the fire-police-hospital relationships for a real winner, although I think my wife watches the show for Kelly Severide only."
— Vince Bettinazzi, battalion chief, Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Fire Department
“’Nightwatch’ truly highlights the daily work of EMTs and paramedics inside of a busy EMS system by following actual EMS providers on their calls.”
— Trevor Frodge, lieutenant, West Chester Fire Department, Ohio
“Rescue Me” (2004-2011) and “Third Watch” (1999-2005)
“Out of all the shows I’ve watched, these two offer some realism to not just the crazy and wacky calls we really do go on, but the life we experience at home, too. Depending on what’s going on with family, it seems better to walk into the firehouse to pause from the stress of things that you can’t control or aren’t ready to face yet. Doing the job gives you time to get clarity and develop a plan to make things right in your personal life. Lean on the members in the firehouse to help. You’d be surprised how many others have had similar experiences to help you through your hurdles in life.”
— Andrew Klein, company officer, Southern California
“Firehouse USA: Boston” (2005)
“This was a special weekly series on the Discovery Channel showcasing Ladder 26 and Engine 37 in Boston. While the series is a bit older and some of the on-scene tactics have evolved greatly in the past 17 years, it’s a great look into fire service life, without all of the crazy drama newer shows seem to need to survive.”
— Chief Jon Dorman, Director of Content – Fire, Lexipol; Chief Mike Vatter, content developer, Lexipol
Beyond the fire service
Of course, there are TV shows from beyond the fire service that can also inspire rookies – or really anyone on the crew.
“Ted Lasso” (2020-Present)
“Watching fire genre movies and series as a rookie firefighter with the purpose of extracting what it’s like to be a firefighter is like watching “Top Gun” and believing that is what it is like being a fighter pilot. However, it’s a rite of passage. In most cases, these shows are hyperbole of our reality. So I offer you this: If I were to whole heartily endorse a TV series that I would recommend to a rookie, it’s simple: ‘Ted Lasso.’ This series has little to do with soccer – err, I mean football – and everything to do with leadership. Leading from one’s position is well messaged and delivered loud and clear throughout this series. The leadership lesson transcends a rookie’s tenure and would be with them for an entire career. If you have seen the series, I leave you with this: BELIEVE.”
— Kris Blume, fire chief, Meridian (Idaho) Fire Department
From our readers
Here’s what the FireRescue1 community offered about fire service TV shows.
- “Thank the Lord for ‘Emergency!’ and the guidance of Chief James O. Page and LA County Fire!”
- "Rescue 8": The missions of a rescue squad of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.