-Stars Robert De Niro, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Kurt Russell, Rebecca De Mornay and Jennifer Jason Leigh
-Tells the story of firemen in Chicago chasing a dangerous arsonist setting fires using a fictional chemical called trychtichlorate.
Did You Know?
-Many of the extras in the film are actual Chicago firefighters. In the funeral procession at the end, many suburban firefighters were asked to appear
-Robert De Niro's character Donald Rimgale is an actual person. The real Don Rimgale is an arson investigator with the Chicago Fire Department's Office of Fire Investigation.
-There are 3 arson victims in the movie: Donald Cosgrove, Alan Seagrave and Jeffrey Holcomb. William Cosgrove is modeled after real life Chicago Fireman/author William Cosgrove who served as De Niro's technical advisor. Seagrave is the name of a fire and ladder truck company. The firehous where Engine 17 and Truck 46 were headquartered were the real, in-service firehouse of the Chicago Fire Department's Engine 65 and Truck 52
-The photos on the wall of the investigator's office are all of Los Angelese county firemen who were on scene during the filming of the movie as a precaution
-The film tells the story of a group of Chicago firemen at Engine 17, 2 of whom are brothers. Lt. Stephen "Bull" McCaffrey(Kurt Russell), the elder is obsessed with beating the fires he fights. He's always at the dangerous end of a fire. His younger brother is Brian McCaffrey(William Baldwin), who has worked hard under his brother's shadow his entire life. He returns to firefighting after a number of other job attempts fail. Stephen has large doubts that Brian could cut it as a fireman. As a child, Brian witnesses the death of their father, Dennis(Also played by Kurt Russell) firsthand when a gas pipe blew up and roasted him alive.
-Donald "Shadow" Rimgale(Robert De Niro) is an arson investigator dedicated to his job. He get called in for a number of fires set recently that appear connected to an arsonist named Ronald Bartel(Donald Sutherland), who has been in prison for years. He appears normal on occasions, but at the mention of a fire, he gets obsessed with the idea of fire living and breathing. Rimgale manipulates this to ensure Ronald's annual application for parole is denied. Brian consults Ronald for advice on the missing link in the recent arsons. The longest servinf of all the firefighters, John "Axe" Adcox(Scott Glenn) served under the McCaffrey's father in the Chicago Fire Department and was like an uncle to the 2 boys. He's a hard worker, takes pride in his work, and loves the department. He attacks the fires head on, but is concerned about Stephen's unusual methods for fighting the fires and safety measures. When 17 gets a call about a high rise fire, Stephen says move quickly despite Adcox's advice to wait for backup. Brian's friend and fellow "probationary fireman" trainee Tim Krizminski(Jason Gedrick), under Stephen's care, accidentally opens a door only to have a backdraft greet him face on. His face is severly burned beyond recognition, but he survives. Adcox and Brian both blame Tim's condition on Stephen's recklessness.
-Martin Swayzak(J.T. Walsh) is an alderman on the Chicago City Council. He hopes to make the role of mayor one day, but has had to make a number of budget cuts to the fire departments. Many of the rank and file firemen believe that the cuts are putting their lives in danger. It's later revealed that during an investigation that Swayzak was paid off by businessmen getting contracts to shut down firehouses and transform them into community centers, with the businessmen funding the construction. Helen McCaffrey(Rebecca De Mornay) is Stephen's estranged wife and mother of their son, Sean. Helen has grown more and more worried about the risks Stephen takes as a firefighter. While still in love, she separated from Stephen to protect herself and Sean. Jennifer Vaitkus(Jennifer Jason Leigh) is Brian's ex-girlfriend who works in Swayzak's office. Her loyalties are torn between her job and Brian. she eventually sides with Brian, recognizing the danger her boss is putting the fireman in through his actions
-One night, Stephen confronts Adcox about the deadly backdrafts during a multiple alarm fire at a hazardous chemical plant. Adcox admits that he set the fires to kill associates of Swayzak because he is angry that Swayzak was benefitting financially from killing firemen. During the fight, an explosion destroys the catwalk they are on, and Stephen grabs Adcox's hand while also grabbing the remains of the catwalk. Fire from below grabs onto Adcox, severely burning him. When Adcox asks Stephen to let him go, he responds "You go, we go." and he loses his own grip. Adcox falls into the fire and is immediately burned and killed. Stephen falls on a lower catwalk, severely injuring himself and causing himself to bleed internally. Brian, injured by Adcox during the fight, rushes to help other firemen reach his brother, thus earning Stephen's respect. While on the way to the hospital, Stephen dies from internal bleeding, with Brian at his side, his final request being that Brian not reveal that Adcox was behind the fires.
-After Stephen and Adcox's funeral, Brian and Rimgale, along with the police, go to the city building and interrupt a press conference that Swayzak is hosting. Rimgale questions Swayzak on the fake manpower study called Lakeside Dynamics that led to the deaths of several firemen, including Stephen and Adcox. This immediately kills Swayzak's hopes of mayoral position and the press hound him with questions. As the film ends, Brian suits up and climbs on to Engine 17 as it heads out to a fire, noticing a rookie fireman trying to suit up. He helps the probationary fireman buckle up his jacket properly and Brian decides to carry on with being a firefighter despite the loss of his brother and father
- Kurt Russell as Lt. Stephen "Bull" McCaffrey/Dennis McCaffery
- William Baldwin as Brian McCaffery
- Scott Glenn as John "Axe" Adcox
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as Jennifer Vaitkus
- Rebecca De Mornay as Helen McCaffrey
- Donald Sutherland as Ronald Bartel
- Robert De Niro as Donald "Shadow" Rimgale
- Jason Gedrick as Tim Krizminski
- J. T. Walsh as Alderman Martin Swayzak
- Anthony Mockus, Sr. as Chief John Fitzgerald
- Cedric Young as Grindle
- Juan Ramirez as Ray Santos
- Kevin Casey as Nightingale
- Jack McGee as Schmidt
- Mark Wheeler as Pengelly