After being on the air for almost 10 years, “Chicago Fire” has built up a pretty impressive fanbase, who flock to the city that inspired the hit NBC show.
Sure, most Chicago tourists go and see the Bean, or Lake Michigan, or Navy Pier. But “Chicago Fire” fans know that the true hotspot is the real, fully operational fire station where they shoot the show.
According to Looper, the fictitious Firehouse 51 is actually the real-life location of Engine 18 station in Chicago. The show shoots exclusively on location, adding a gritty, realistic texture to the procedural.
Both locals and out-of-town visitors rush to the “Chicago Fire” set every year, according to Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Steve Chikerotis. The Chief spoke with the Chicago Tribune back in 2014 about how crazy it’s become since the show aired in 2012.
“We have people [coming to the station] from all over the world … We might have 200 to 300 people that are here… I’ve seen a big increase in the number of tourists coming around,” Chikerotis told the outlet.
One such visitor posted a glowing review of the “Chicago Fire” station on Tripadvisor. User npwoods from the United Kingdom visited the station right before the pandemic hit in February 2020.
“We visited the station with our daughter who just turned 10. We surprised her [with] a holiday to Chicago…Arriving at the fire station we were welcomed in by two firefighters that were so warm and friendly and very willing to give us a tour,” the visitor wrote. “We got to sit on Mouch’s couch and buy a souvenir t-shirt. Had to pose in different places to feel part of the show. A big thank you for making our daughter’s dream come true.”
How ‘Chicago Fire’ Incorporated a Sliding Pole Into Show Where Concept Originated
If you ask Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Steve Chikerotis, a real Chicago firefighter came up with the concept of the sliding pole. You’ve seen it in all kinds of firefighter-related shows and movies. They get the call, and the people on the second floor slide down the pole instead of taking the stairs.
According to Chikerotis and the City of Chicago’s website, Captain David Kenyon invented the sliding pole in 1878. He wanted to “get a faster push out from the bunkroom.”
So of course, the “Chicago Fire” producers wanted to incorporate the sliding pole into their show. In the series premiere, they made Firehouse 51 look like a two-story building, according to Looper. Even though the real-life Engine 18 station is a one-story building.
Cast member Charlie Barnett slid down the pole in the series premiere, but after that, the producers nixed the idea. They kept Firehouse 51 one-story from then on out.
“Now the pole is there kind of as a novelty item,” Chikerotis said.