Inside 'Ladder 49'

Before the Blaze

Photo courtesy Touchstone Pictures

Before he shot frame one of "Ladder 49," Russell made detailed preparations, working closely with the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) to ensure authenticity and safety.

"I firmly subscribe to the notion that you make a movie in prep. In this case it couldn't be more true," says Russell. "If you're trying to figure it out on the set with all this stuff going on, it would just be a disaster. We'd still be shooting. So we really did our homework."

This was especially crucial once he realized that all the fires in the film would be real. "If the CGI fire had looked right, I probably would have considered using it just for the safety facto. But I saw many tests, and it didn't. Fire is just too random and erratic."

Special effects coordinator Larry Fioritto agrees: "It's a living, breathing thing... Our cast and crew were going to be right in the middle of these fire situations. There was no other way to do it. We had to create fires so that they could be in there, yet keep them safe." Fioritto ranks Ladder 49 as one of the toughest assignments of his 30-year career.