‘LA Fire & Rescue’: An inside look at real-life drama on the scene
The NBC docuseries follows units in Los Angeles County, highlighting the positivity of the profession but also a problematic safety issue
As I have demonstrated in these columns, when it comes to fire-related TV shows, I’m an easy mark. I watch them all, for better and for worse (unfortunately, mostly for worse). So naturally, I was interested to see that a new show recently premiered on NBC – “LA Fire & Rescue.”
This one is different from the other current fire shows. The other programs – “Chicago Fire,” “911,” “911 Lone Star,” “Station 19” and “Fire Country” – are all fictional dramas set in the fire and emergency services where the interpersonal relationships and conflicts are as important to the storyline as the emergency calls to which the characters respond.
“LA Fire & Rescue” takes a documentarian approach, where camera crews follow actual response units in Los Angeles County, profiling their most dramatic calls and affecting moments. I’ve only seen one episode so far, but the show does show promise in several areas.
The first episode of “LA Fire & Rescue” was overflowing with dramatic calls covering the wide spectrum of fire response: medical incidents, structural and wildland fires, hazmat calls, rescue attempts and motor vehicle crashes. The fast pace of the filming suits the nature of real emergency response. I also liked that the show provided information for those not familiar with the technical aspects of the job, including definitions of some terms and procedures, for example, defining “agonal breathing” when a firefighter used this term. These definitions appeared as text on the screen – a good way to incorporate them into the show without distracting from the action.
The episode also did a good job illustrating both the diversity of the job and those who work as firefighters. While female firefighters were not really included in the first episode apart from the introduction, previews of upcoming shows indicate that women will be profiled in future episodes. (The Los Angeles County Fire Department includes over 100 female firefighters.)
One element of the first show that I really liked was the side story about the new firefighter whose probation was delayed due to a cancer diagnosis. He was able to stay on the job through his medical treatments because his coworkers stepped up to work for him. This is something that firefighters routinely do for their colleagues (I personally benefitted from this tradition in my own department) but may not be widely known by the general public. It shows firefighters at their best, and I am glad the show included it.
Safety issue on display
Unfortunately, the show does not always profile the responders at their best, specifically in their failure to consistently use seat belts when on the rigs. Some seemed to always use them, and some seemed to never click in.
One of the most blatant offenders was a captain who was otherwise portrayed as a positive and almost heroic role model. When firefighters, paramedics and EMTs are still dying needlessly from failure to use seat belts, this obvious disregard for safety really stood out, especially from a leader within the group.
“LA Fire & Rescue” did a fine job highlighting the intensity of the job and the teamwork that is required to meet the challenges faced. In fact, the program almost plays like a recruitment video and will certainly inspire some people to investigate a career in the emergency services. This is a good thing.
I will keep watching and hope to see all the L.A. County personnel using consistently good safety practices, including seatbelts, in future episodes.