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The cast and crew of NBC’s Chicago Fire go to great lengths to make the show seem as realistic as possible. Actors do many of their own stunts, and the staged pyrotechnics are on point. 

As with many other shows where actors are portraying experts, Chicago Fire employs consultants who lend their expertise to certain scenes. But on top of that, several cast members also attended “fire college” so they have a basic understanding of the real-life techniques that go into fighting fires. Many OG actors on the series went through extensive training. But more recent Chicago Fire additions like Miranda Rae Mayo and Kara Killmer also got to experience what it’s like to become a firefighter in real life. Here’s what they had to say about the experience, and what goes into it. 

Miranda Rae Mayo and Kara Killmer both trained with the Illinois Fire Service Institute for ‘Chicago Fire’

In a recent promo video for the series, the women of Chicago Fire sat down to dish out behind-the-scenes tidbits about what it’s like to work together in part of the One Chicago universe. Mayo, who plays Lieutenant Stella Kidd, joined the cast in 2016. Killmer joined the series in 2014 as paramedic Sylvie Brett, and is now the chief medic on the show. 

In addition to other training, Mayo said that she and Killmer both attended the Illinois Fire Service Institute’s (IFSI) fire college program to get a better understanding of what their characters would actually experience. 

IFSI is affiliated with the University of Illinois, and runs the oldest fire college in the country. Each summer the program trains would-be firefighters for four days. This includes hands-on training with live fire, and classroom sessions that teach about the proper techniques for firefighting. 

Mayo said that she and Killmer attended the fire college at different times. But both insinuated it was an intense experience. “So glad I’m playing a paramedic,” Killmer joked, laughing. 

Mayo trained with veteran ‘Chicago Fire’ actors when she joined the cast

On top of her experience with fire college, Mayo said she also trained with Steve Chikerotis, a consulting producer for the show. “Chik,” as he is known to the cast, is a retired Deputy District Chief with the Chicago Fire Department according to the show’s fan page. “Eamonn [Walker] and Jesse [Spencer] came to one of my first training sessions — they were so like their roles. It was awesome,” Mayo said. 

Recent cast additions haven’t had the same experience, mostly because COVID-19 pandemic restrictions make it more difficult to shadow the crews of real-life firehouses. Hanako Greensmith, who joined the series in 2020, said she’s still gleaned information from the consulting paramedics who work with her and Killmer every time they film a scene. “It’s not the same as shadowing, but I definitely get a slice of what their real life looks like,” Greensmith said. “It’s very impressive.”

Season 11 could test Stella Kidd and Sylvie Brett in different ways

chicago fire kara killmer miranda rae mayo
(l-r) Kara Killmer as Sylvie Brett, Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd | Elizabeth Morris/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Mayo and Killmer are now tried and true Chicago Fire veterans with ample experience in their roles. The upcoming premiere of Season 11 will bring about transition for both cast members. Mayo’s Kidd is a newlywed, finally sealing the deal with fellow firefighter Lieutenant Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) in the Season 10 finale. However, the promos for Season 11 show a standoff during their honeymoon at Severide’s cabin, complete with gun-toting enemies. 

In addition, the synopsis for Season 11 also hints that another person from Kidd’s past will join the cast this year. According to FanSided, her “former academy classmate” will join Station 51. 

Meanwhile, Brett will be moving on from her relationship with Matt Casey (Spencer) now that he is more permanently off the show. We’ll see her get more absorbed by her career at the start of this season, though Killmer hinted to TV Insider that we might see an “old love” come along, too. 

Chicago Fire returns to NBC Wednesday, September 21 at 9 p.m. EST.