By LINDSAY WELBERS
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
The NBC television drama “Chicago Fire” is filming a portion of its season premiere in Hyde Park this week, blocking off streets and setting very controlled fires in two apartment buildings.
The drama follows the story of firefighters and paramedics in Chicago.
The 1300 block of Hyde Park Boulevard will be closed to traffic from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pedestrians will be allowed to walk through but because filming will take place on the south side of Hyde Park Boulevard, they will be asked to cross over to the north side of the street at Kenwood and Dorchester.
Parking will be restricted on both sides of Dorchester from Hyde Park Boulevards to 52nd Street, both sides of Hyde Park Boulevards from Dorchester to 1240 E. Hyde Park Blvd. and both sides of Kenwood from Hyde Park Boulevard to 52nd Street. Parking will open back up after 10 p.m. on Wednesday.
To help replace parking spaces lost to film trucks, NBC rented the parking lot at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone. The public is invited to park there for free.
Bob Hudgins, location manager for the show, said Hyde Park was chosen as the location for the scene because the two buildings, 1347 and 1351 E. Hyde Park Blvd., are unusually close together for Chicago residences.
“It was about the geography of the buildings, Hudgins said. “The script called for two buildings next to each other … The fire starts in the apartment here on the right and boys show up to put the fire out. It’s a very engaged fire. We’re going to have 12 window boxes spurting flames out of the building. It’s going to look lighted up like a birthday cake.”
In the scene, a woman calls from the next building to say her mother is suffering a heart attack and when the paramedics go to attend to the woman, the wind shifts, the second building catches fire and the paramedics become trapped.
The firefighters and paramedics, in the scene, have to put a ladder between the two buildings to evacuate the woman from her apartment to the next building.
The two buildings, which are four-story masonry structures, are set unusually close together. Hudgins said these two buildings, spaced about 10 feet apart, hit a “sweet spot” suiting the scene’s needs.
Two buildings on either side of an alley, which is usually 20 to 25 feet wide, or across a gangway, which is usually about 3 to 5 feet wide, wouldn’t work for the scene.
“It was far enough up to look like there was peril, like they couldn’t just hand her off [from one building to another],” Hudgins said. “And they had to be at least four stories high, which they are, so you’re getting the shot looking down so peril being really important, and … most importantly, where the windows lined up.”
Hudgins said the fire scenes are based on the real-life experiences of a long-time Chicago fireman and the firefighting scenes are as realistic as possible.
Actual fire is used for filming, though it is highly controlled and a professional firefighter is very close ready to put out the flames if the scene went wrong. The windows are removed from the building for safety, and propane is used to create very controlled flames.
“There is no margin of error with fire,” Hudgins said.