Tacoma FD: Is the Show Inspired by the Story of Real Firefighters?

Created by Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, ‘Tacoma FD’ is a TruTV sitcom that takes place in Tacoma, one of the wettest cities in the country. As such the fire department of the town has little to no firefighting to do, and its members fight boredom at most times. The antics and shenanigans of the department are second to none, so much so that its new chief, Terry McConky, is under fire from the city council to increase the station’s ratings. Their laid-back attitude and ridiculous stunts are not taken well by some, and they humorously clash with different groups, having a long-running rivalry with the Tacoma police department.

Tacoma FD is Loosely Based on True Stories

While ‘Tacoma FD’ is a work of fiction, it is partly inspired by Heffernan’s Lt. William “Bill” Heffernan, who is a real-life firefighter serving in New Haven, Connecticut. Bill served as a technical adviser for the sitcom, maintaining accuracies and authenticity regarding the force. However, his inputs aren’t just limited to technical details; he supplies many of the show’s crazy scenes with real-life stories heard from firemen.

In an interview, Bill reveals his discussion with Kevin regarding a fireman-based comedy at the time of the first ‘Super Troopers,’ recalling, “I said to him ‘Forget all this police stuff. You should do a show about firefighters, I have a million great stories.’” He continues, “Well he ignored me for many years but around the time that ‘Super Troopers 2’ was coming out, he called me and said, ‘You are not going to believe this but Steve (Lemme) and I just got a call and they want us to write a TV show, a comedy about a bunch of firefighters.’ So the three of us yakked away for a few hours and I told them a few great West Haven legends.” One of the stories that made it into the show and happened with Bill himself was the firefighter giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a cat.

Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme previously worked on the widely acclaimed movie, ‘Super Troopers,’ which was set in a remote border town in Vermont. This was the perfect setting for the state troopers to have plenty of time on their hands for their prank wars. Similarly, for their firefighter comedy, the creators wanted to set the show in a location that would lend itself to the servicemen having a lot of downtime, ultimately leading to their antics. Statistically being one of the rainiest cities, Tacoma became the eponymous backdrop of the show.

The showrunners have been threatened by the real Tacoma firefighters in good humor for portraying them as loafers. The sitcom takes further inspiration from the silly calls that firefighters often find themselves going on, to help someone stuck in a fence, remove an object lodged in a caller, or break down a door. However, when no such tasks are on hand, and all their preparations are made, they can be waiting at the station for 24 to 72 hours in shifts with continuous downtime. This leads to a lot of the shenanigans they have become famous for, further popularized through the show.

Giving a relatable and realistic feel to the characters is essential for the sitcom, to draw their audiences in and make them feel like they are a part of the group of friends seen on-screen. In addition to the authentic stories and technicalities, Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme write their comedy in a way to facilitates such a feeling. Their characters are of varied personalities as you would see in any group of friends, and they avoid being hateful, never going out of their way to pick on people for laughs. Writing nice characters who get along with each other creates a world that is approachable for the viewers, where they can picture themselves hanging out with the firemen as a part of the fun and the gang.

The creators do hold a high level of respect for the firemen they portray, showing the characters to be meticulous in their primary work, and goofing around only for inane tasks and during their downtime. For firefighting and drill scenes, they used the actual gear and tanks, feeling hot in the fireproof asbestos rig, and groaning under its weight. Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme confess that they felt a newfound respect for the real heroes, especially when the California forest fires broke out in 2020, they could see the large plume of smoke from the studio, and thousands of firemen were at the scene for days.

‘Tacoma FD’ is unique in being a comedy show on firefighters, and its creators feel that it is quite representative of the servicemen being an incredibly humourous group of people with a lot of ridiculously funny stories. Many of the crazy calls and incidents seen in the show were based on the stories being told by the real-life fireman Bill, including the scene of a man insisting on CPR being given to his puppet, which the firemen obliged to calm him down. Therefore, while ‘Tacoma FD’ does not follow any particular true story, it represents the men in uniform as authentically as a comedy can, while getting more than enough source material for its jokes, pranks, and incidents from real-life firefighters.

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