Why Chicago Fire's First Deadly Fire Was Brutal To Film, According To The Cast

Chicago Fire is just days away from hitting its 200th episode, and it has remarkably managed to hold on to almost all of the original cast from Season 1 all the way to Season 10 while still adding new characters. That said, even though the series premiere aired nearly ten years and 200 episodes ago, some of those cast members still have vivid memories of shooting that very first episode. According to them, it was downright brutal, and not because it delivered the first death of the series with Darden. It was the heat!

In celebration of the 200th episode of Chicago Fire, Joe Minoso (who plays Cruz), Christian Stolte (who plays Mouch), and David Eigenberg (who plays Herrmann) spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets. They shared what they still remember from filming that first episode, with Minoso saying: 

The heat. The utter, utter heat. That's the first time, when we did the pilot, the weather was, like, weirdly perfect for like the whole week. It was just like the best Chicago three weeks of weather that you've ever imagined. And then the last two days were bitterly cold and dropped to 40 degrees. Well, bitterly cold for us. Not anymore. We're used to it. But the first day back, we were doing reshoots for the pilot. It was our very first day working and we had to go do this Darden fire and they threw all that gear on us and the tanks and all this stuff and it was 105 degrees outside.

Darden may have been the one roasted alive (RIP), but the actors who had to gear up as firefighters for the very first time in Chicago heat weren’t exactly cooling their heels! David Eigenberg confirmed that it was “literally” 105 degrees, didn’t just “feel like a hundred” but was way up there. And that temperature is uncomfortably hot without air conditioning even under just one layer of clothing, let alone what the Chicago Fire cast wears to play firefighters! Christian Stolte said: 

It was pass-out hot, and we were brand new at doing this so we didn't have protocols in place. We had one man, Steve Chikerotis, looking at everybody's face to see who looked like they were about to pass out. That's how I remember it. The guy who plays Chief Walker on our show is our real life Chicago Fire Chief and consultant and story contributor and all of that. But I remember him just clocking everybody, coming up to me and saying 'You need to drink this water.' 'I will.' 'No, drink the whole thing right now in front of me.'

Fortunately for the cast of Chicago Fire during their very first intense set experience in firefighter gear, they had a real-life CFD fire chief on hand to check in on them. And Steve Chikerotis was evidently pretty strict with them to make sure they drank their water! Interestingly, Chicago Fire in later episodes began to frequently show the firefighters actually drinking bottles of water after fires, so there’s some more realism that the show has added. David Eigenberg concurred about all the bottles of water, and then explained why Fire gave them the authentic firefighter uniforms rather than a lightweight costume made with TV magic, saying:

Yeah, 18 bottles of water and our socks were wet, my underwear was wet. And it was brutal. But we actually, for the first thing of the actual series, we've never gotten that hot. And we've gotten crazy hot, but we never... Because we all were like 'What did we get ourselves into? This isn't normal.' And Dick Wolf was very explicit that we were going to wear the insulated quilting on the inside, because it makes it look rich and full, and we've never taken it out.

Apparently, it was executive producer Dick Wolf who was determined that the actors would be authentic, which meant insulated quilting. And honestly, Chicago Fire really did succeed there, because the bulky look of the firefighters makes their rescue scenes feel all the more realistic. They don’t look glamorous or move easily like they’re in lightweight material, and it really works. Unfortunately for the Chicago Fire cast back in the pilot! Christian Stolte elaborated:

Yeah, we could have bought ourselves a little bit of comfort by unzipping the liner of the bunker coats, but Dick and Company liked that bulky feeling, you know, the way that looks.

Well, there’s no arguing that Dick Wolf doesn’t know what it takes to produce a hit show. Even before Chicago Fire was a hit show that would launch Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med, Wolf had the Law & Order franchise to his name, and as of fall 2021, has eight hit shows across two networks. If Dick Wolf has opinions about the costumes, then it’s no surprise that his opinions are accounted for! That said, Chicago weather can be pretty extreme in one direction or the other, so is the heat or the cold worse? Joe Minoso weighed in: 

Though we didn't find ourselves with as hot a day ever, the reverse of that in the middle of Chiberia, where we were trudging through the snow in negative 40-degree weather, it was also equally brutal.

The weather can still be pretty brutal when it comes to outdoor scenes no matter the time of the year, as fans have seen the actors sweating through the warm months and trudging through the snow during the winter months. Plus, Chicago being Chicago, winter snows can extend well into April. At least after 200 episodes, the stars have gotten used to the physical demands of their job! 

And fortunately for fans, the wait for that 200th episode with Joe Minoso, David Eigenberg, and Christian Stolte is nearly over. If Chicago Fire follows through on what seemed to be Casey’s decision to leave Chicago and move to Oregon to take care of the Darden boys and bring the show full circle from that first deadly fire, then it’s bound to be an emotional episode of goodbyes. 

That said, the promo reveals Chloe and Cruz's baby is on the way. If their family is an exception to what often happens with One Chicago pregnancies, then there will be something big to celebrate without any tragedies! The 200th episode of Chicago Fire airs on Wednesday, October 20 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, between Chicago Med and Chicago P.D. in the hit One Chicago lineup. It’s also not the only Dick Wolf show hitting a major milestone that week on NBC, with Law & Order: SVU airing its 500th episode just a day later. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).