"...after having heard the explosion from their practice facility they ran into the fire to help get people out... ran into the fire."
—Bartlet, The West Wing "20 Hours in America, Part II"
A common way for a work to show a character is heroic is by having them putting themselves in harm's way to rescue others, and the fire rescue is a classic example (which is another reason why Firemen Are Hot). The fire might be a burning building, or car, or any other fire in general, but generally it will threaten the life of the character who enters it. Expect it to happen regularly in a work focused on firefighters. A subversion sometimes occurs where a character will attempt to invoke this trope by setting the fire themselves, and then enter into it to rescue someone, hoping to come off as a hero. Usually this will backfire spectacularly. Supertrope of Hero's First Rescue (which is about a superhero using their powers, generally for the first time, and that is where superhero examples of this trope reside). Can be used as an Establishing Character Moment, Rescue Introduction or to kickstart a Rescue Romance. If the character is already shown as being heroic, it can be used to underline their Chronic Hero Syndrome. Please Don't Try This at Home, as you're more likely to end up needing to be rescued yourself... if you even survive.
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Anime & Manga
- In Ask Dr. Rin!, when Tokiwa was still in his Yandere phase, one of his attempts to woo Meirin involved using his shikigami to set her school on fire while she was trapped in one of the rooms. His plan was to invoke this trope, even though he set the building on fire in the first place. Naturally, Asuka managed to show up and rescue her first.
- Twice over in Rainbow when the detention center catches fire while most of the protagonists are locked in their cell. First, Anchan rushes in, determined to force the door, and winds up needing to be rescued himself. Then Scam rushes in, having found the key, and saves the others, who then save Anchan.
- In the Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei chapter about misplaced priorities, student Mansebashi-kun rushes into the burning house where his little sister is screaming for help... to rescue his anime merchandise. His mother slaps him after a firefighter rescues the girl.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi is trapped in a warehouse and forced to duel a brainwashed Bandit Keith over who gets the Millenium Puzzle. After Bakura sets Keith free, he snaps out of his brainwashing, but only temporarily as Marik makes him smash the Puzzle to pieces, much to Yugi's terror. Bakura then knocks Keith out and "helps" Yugi put the Puzzle back together. Keith then wakes up and snaps, not only out of his brainwashing completely, but accidentally setting the warehouse on fire, which leads to Joey and Tristan having to save Yugi despite his objections of never letting go of the Puzzle.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga has a similar but very different scenario in the Dungeon Dice Monsters arc. This time the fire was caused by Mr. Otogi knocking over a candle when trying to solve the Millennium Puzzle and going insane. While Yugi tries to solve puzzle while in the fire, all Yugi's friends evacuate the building except for Jonouchi, who waits inside for Yugi to solve the Puzzle. When Yugi passes out after solving it, Jonouchi carries Yugi out of the still burning building.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S opens with the post-Time Skip Aces assisting the firefighters in containing a large airport fire, though only Nanoha and Fate actually go in to evacuate the victims, while Hayate coordinates the efforts from the outside. Nanoha's rescue of Subaru, the seasons' central new character, becomes the turning point in the latter's life, motivating her to pursue a mage's career to be more like her new idol. Simultaneously subverted in the case of Subaru's sister Ginga, who tries to rescue her on her own but almost dies and instead has to be rescued by Fate.
- Happens every so often in Pokémon. One notable example is Ash rushing into the burning Celadon Gym to save Erika's Gloom, thus earning himself the Rainbow Badge. Also seen with Water-type turtle Pokémon (Squirtle, Wartortle, and Blastoise) who are specially trained for this.
- Captain Atom had a superb Post-Crisis story by Greg Weisman where the hero, having just resigned his commission, has to rescue some vagrant in a building fire. In doing so, Captain Atom, who had to pose as a Super Hero to be a Mole in the Justice League, realizes that he likes being a superhero for real.
- Occured once in Luann where Brad, while working for the fire department, rushed in to save a character. He was complimented for being successful, but also reprimanded and suspended for putting himself at risk to do needless heroics.
- In the Nintendo Power comic for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, this is the action that endears Link to at least a few people in Kakariko who help him on his quest.
- In the ninth chapter of the Rango fanfic Old West, the Convenient Store of Mud (the new name of Dirt) is set ablaze and the store owner's wife and baby are trapped upstairs. Unable to stand aside and listen to a child burning to death, Grace Glossy rushes inside and gets the woman and baby out by lowering them from the window with her long snake's body, allowing the townsfolk to catch them. This brave and selfless action makes the majority of the town pipe down their prejudices, and Rattlesnake Jake's esteem towards Grace rises.
- In the eleventh chapter of the Cinderella fanfic Sunset in a Gilded Frame, Etienne Gerard rescues Cinderella from a burning stable.
Films — Animation
- The title character of Bolt, a dog who thought he was a superhero, shows his true heroism by running into a burning soundstage to rescue his girl Penny.
- In The Incredibles, Bob and Lucius (AKA Mr. Incredible and Frozone) rescue some people from a burning building. This is while the Superhero Registration Act is in effect, and they are almost caught when they accidentally break into the jewelry store next door.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Phoebus performs one of these after Frollo has an innocent family trapped in their house and then sets the place on fire, successfully saving them all.
- Disney manages to pull a Reality Ensues with this trope in Big Hero 6. Tadashi runs into a burning building after his teacher and not only does he not make it out again but said teacher was never in any real danger due to being the Big Bad.
Films — Live-Action
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Mikey saves Yoshi from a burning building just before reuniting with his brothers. It's this act that convinces the village to start trusting the turtles.
- Naturally, films about firefighters, such as Ladder 49 and Backdraft. In fact this trope dates all the way back to 1902 and one of the first narrative films ever made, the six-minute short Life of an American Fireman.
- In the film Turk182 an off-duty fireman goes into a burning building and rescues a little girl; he gets injured, but since he had alcohol in his system the city refuses to pay for his medical expenses. His little brother goes on a Roaring Rampage of...uncivil disobedience.
- Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy uses this twice. In the first film the rescue turns into an encounter with the Green Goblin. In the second film Peter pulls one of these despite the fact has lost his powers.
- Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. Shadow and Sassy rescue a little boy and his cat from a burning house.
- Backdraft: As most of the man characters are firefighters by profession this happens multiple times in the film.
- In Mighty Joe Young, a rescue of this nature occurs toward the end of the film.
- In Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Peewee runs into a burning pet shop to rescue all the pets... including the snakes, although he waited until the last minute.
- Occurs in Crash when Officer John Ryan, so far shown only as a racist, performs a rescue of a black character from a burning car and hence gets Character Development into a Noble Bigot with a Badge.
- Done by the title character in The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.
- Always shows the flying kind, who are in every bit as much danger as their terrestrial counterparts, if not more so. Pete in particular is known to take extreme risks to fight forest fires, which eventually costs him his life. By the end, Ted is developing a similar mentality.
- Reaper Man: Bill Door saves a little girl from a fire. The Fridge Logic behind the trope is demonstrated nicely when Miss Flitworth is prepared to kick him out after he first suggests that it's not worth the effort.
- Going Postal: Played more-or-less straight, although Moist is very Genre Savvy about it (yet he actually saves several lives).
"A man who rushes into a burning building to rescue a stupid cat and comes out carrying that cat is seen as a hero, even if he is rather a dumb one. If he comes out sans cat he's a twit."
- Parodied in Jingo. Vimes does this and is accused of trespassing (in the embassy which was on fire) and kidnap (of the woman he rescued).
- In S.E. Hilton's The Outsiders and its film adaptation, greaser delinquents Ponyboy, Dallas, and Johnny save several children from a burning church, giving them a story on the front page as heroes. Sadly, Johnny eventually dies due to injuries sustained from the event.
- In the first book of Timothy Zahn's The Cobra Trilogy, the war has ended and a Super Soldier has come home to great distrust from his community. At one point he is almost hit by a car, and his computerized reflexes save him and then cause the car's tires to blow out, making it crash and killing the people inside despite his best efforts. Later on the mayor, who's on his side, gets him to a burning building after the firefighters have an equipment shortage, and he saves several people to mass cheers, daring then to hope that public opinion has turned around. It didn't, unfortunately; after the excitement died down he was regarded with yet more fear.
- The Decorator: Erast Fandorin does it once, as recounted by Angelina.
- Discussed in The Wheel of Time, Siuan tells Mat that he reminds her of her uncle from when she was a fishermen's daughter. He was a heavy drinker, chased after woman all the time, loved to gamble and was able to charm his way out of any kind of trouble (which he frequently got in). He died rescuing children from a burning building; in fact, he died because he kept going back to look for more people and the roof collapsed on him. Siuan implies that Mat would do the same thing and he scoffs. She turns out to be right, while not quite the same; he goes back to rescue Olver (his ward) in the middle of a Seanchan Invasion, braving explosions and damen attacks
- The demon Crowley in Good Omens runs into a burning bookshop with what everyone else perceives is an intention to rescue the (similarly immortal) angel Aziraphale; but what Crowley is really after, and rescues, is the extremely vital sole remaining edition of The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Wyttche.
- The Dresden Files:
- Harry does this in Changes and gets his back broken because of an exploding gas grill. He does have a severe case of Chronic Hero Syndrome after all.
- Sanya, Knight of the Cross shows up soon after and helps Harry further at the same fire.
- Circle of Magic: Daja and Frostpine do this in Cold Fire. Of course they are Smith Mages so it's slightly less dangerous for them to do it as they have magical resistance to fire.
- Coldfire also has another example but of the subversion. Ben Ladradun is the heroic firefighter, rescuing people from burning buildings, but also the serial arsonist setting the fires in the first place.
- And Daja previously rescued an entire caravan from a burning forest in Daja's Book.
- In the children's book Clarence Goes to Town Clarence (a non-anthropomorphic dog) is in a quiz-and-stunt show with a human, and one of the stunts is an obstacle course. Clarence goes off course because he spots a small fire backstage. After putting the fire out, they give him a special prize for doing that.
- How Jonatan dies in the beginning of The Brothers Lionheart.
- Early in the novel Corinne, a fire breaks out in Ancona, and when Oswald finds out that the Jews have been locked into the ghetto for the night (as was common practice in much of Europe at the time), and are to be left to their fate, he himself the rushes to the ghetto, towards the fire, and breaks the gate open. He then uses a ladder to climb into the burning asylum and rescues the five inmates one by one.
- Finders Keepers: Hodges and Jerome have to rescue Pete and Fina from the burning Rec building in the climax.
- In Warrior Cats book Rising Storm, Fireheart and Yellowfang return to the burning ThunderClan camp to rescue Halftail, Patchpelt, and Bramblekit. It doesn't work out too well for Yellowfang.
- In season 3 of Ashes to Ashes, Ray runs into a burning building when he hears a woman in there. This trope is subverted, because a fireman ends up saving both Ray and the woman from the fire.
- The A-Team, "Fire". Naturally, the A-Team gets to pull off one of these while helping Sanders' fire department. B.A. in particular comes out a hero, rescuing a boy who was trapped on an upper floor.
- Chuck: Chuck and Casey in "Chuck Versus The Frosted Tips", who run into a helicopter and its surrounds on fire to rescue Morgan and Gertrude Verbinski respectively.
- Body of Proof kicks off one episode by having Peter run into a burning house to rescue one of the inhabitants, underlining his bravery credentials.
- Castle: After a bomb goes off in Beckett's apartment, Castle rushes into the burning apartment to rescue her. Played down somewhat because the apartment fires are quite small and it is then Played for Laughs when it turns out that Beckett is naked in her bathtub and she demands he hand her his jacket before they leave. Then Beckett lampshades this trope by joking that Castle must be extremely keen to tell her about his heroism with regards to breaking down the door and rushing into the apartment.
- In the backstory of Ghost Whisperer, this how Jim and Melinda met. He rescued her from a burning apartment complex.
- Subverted in an episode of London's Burning; a man had to be forcibly restrained from rushing back into a burning house to rescue his daughter, and when he finally broke loose he ended up trying to sprint up an already-unstable flight of stairs that collapsed, injuring himself quite badly and making the crew's job a lot more complicated.
- In the Charmed episode "Siren Song", Cole does this to try to prove to Phoebe that he's reformed.
- The X-Files episode "Fire":
- Cecil L'ively the Pyro Maniac successfully attempted to invoke this trope by setting the fire at the hotel so that he could save the boys he was watching from their room.
- Played straight with Agent Mulder who rescued the children from the burning house at the final showdown, having to face his paralysing fear of fire.
- During the second season of ER, Shep and Raoul do this instead of waiting for backup. Raoul dies from third-degree burns he suffered and Shep becomes so depressed and volatile that Carol Hathaway breaks up with him.
- London's Burning: Employed frequently, naturally enough for a show about firefighters. They aren't always successful.
- Ditto with Emergency!, only with a lot more success.
- Sara runs into a burning building to rescue a child in an episode of Arrow while in her Canary costume, which is witnessed by a cop. When the cop tells the story to her colleagues later, she call her a hero for the act of bravery. This finally makes Sara realize that all the people telling her she's more than just the bad person she believes herself to be might be right.
- When Janette returns from her bus trip she has a stepson. She tells Nick the boy's father 'smashed in my door with an axe and swept me off my feet.' She neglects to mention that her apartment was on fire at the time and the man was a firefighter.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Forsaken," Dr. Bashir is assigned to escort an Ass in Ambassador delegation around the station, a situation he finds intolerable—until the four of them are trapped in a burning corridor. Bashir's quick thinking saves their lives, thus earning their respect.
- In one Blue Bloods episode, Jamie Reagan spots a building in flames and rushes in to rescue a baby. This is treated by the press accordingly as an act of heroism and they begin demanding the identity of the hero cop. Unfortunately, to put Jamie in front of the camera would mean blowing an undercover operation that he's currently involved in. So Frank has it arranged that Sergeant Renzulli take public credit for the rescue, while giving Jamie his commendation medal in private.
- The "My Hero" video by the Foo Fighters.
- Burning Rangers is all about this trope; you play as members of a futuristic firefighting squad who put out raging fires within facilities and save civilians trapped inside.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, there's a mission where CJ has to enter a burning house to rescue a girl. From a fire he caused in the first place. Man's a hero, no doubt.
- Mass Effect 2: In Zaeed's loyalty mission, Shepard has to choose between running into a burning refinery in order to turn on the fire suppression systems and rescue the workers, or pursue the man Zaeed has wanted revenge on for twenty years and ignore the workers.
- It's optional, but if you want to get Kid back in your party towards the end of Chrono Cross you have to get her to wake up from a nightmare-racked coma by traveling through time and rescuing her fellow orphans from their burning home. Said orphanage is Lucca's house from Chrono Trigger, and you arrive immediately after she gets killed by the Big Bad.
- Final Fantasy VI sees the party have to enter a burning building to rescue Relm during their stay in Thamasa. The fire's sentient, and the heart of the blaze is a boss fight.
- Fahrenheit has Lukas' flashback of a fire at a military warehouse, near which he grew up. When it caught fire, several neighborhood boys snuck inside to play hide-and-seek, so Lukas had to go in, too, to get them out before the whole thing exploded. Depending on how many victims you rescue in the flashback, Lukas' Sanity Meter goes down by different amounts (or even goes up, if he saved everyone) in the present.
- In Beyond: Two Souls, some punks set fire to an abandoned building where Jodie and her homeless friends are resting, so Jodie and her poltergeist friend Aiden have to mount a heroic rescue. Anyone you fail to get to before they suffocate is Killed Off for Real.
- In Silent Hill: Origins Protagonist Travis Grady does this for Alessa Gillespe who ends up in a hospital after he loses consciousness.
- Venusaur rescues a baby as a final heroic gesture in 151 Hidden Depths.
- Butch of Chopping Block was mourned as a hero when he ran into a burning building to rescue an old lady, and didn't come back out. They didn't see him escape out the back door, still carrying the old lady . . .
- In the inn-scene of The Order of the Stick Haley and V go into the fire to save Haley's gold, while Miko is in rescuing people. Justified because of the Dungeons & Dragons setting where fire does 1d6 nonmagical fire damage and they are high level characters having loads of hit points.
- Phase pulls this in his origin novel "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind" in the Whateley Universe. He rushes to a burning building and saves his sister from a supervillainess who is throwing fireballs. It is only after getting hit with a fireball himself that he finds out he is fireproof (some of the time).
- The Simpsons:
- On the way to the company softball game Jose Canseco comes upon a house on fire. "Save my baby!" He runs in and saves the baby. "Save my cat!" So he saves the cat. "Save my player piano!" He spends all day running in and out of the burning building saving things.
- Ned Flanders saves Homer when the Casa Simpson catches fire.
- When Moe's bar burns, Barney saves...a couple of kegs of beer. Before running back in for Moe and Homer. And two cases of beer.
- In Futurama, Fry (whose consumption of 100 cups of coffee has momentarily given him superpowers) rescues the patrons of a burning art exhibit (one at a time, using super-speed).
- Classic Disney Shorts:
- "Society Dog Show", Mickey enters Pluto on a dog show, but is rejected. Then a fire breaks out and Pluto rushes in to save the Pekinese he fell in love with.
- "Elmer Elephant": an elephant is laughed out of a birthday party at his girlfriend's (a tiger) house, but eventually saves her and her friends when said tiger's house catches fire with the help of an old giraffe and several pelicans.
- "Mickey's Fire Brigade": Firemen Mickey, Donald and Goofy try to rescue Clarabelle from a burning boarding house. She doesn't take too kindly to being rescued, as she was in the bathtub at the time.
- The Mickey Mouse (2013) cartoon "Fire Escape": Mickey sees smoke coming from Minnie's apartment and rushes to save her, but first has to rescue the other tenants in her building. He finally makes it to Minnie's, only to find that the smoke is from Minnie's cooking.
- In the Mixels episode "Nixel, Nixel, Go Away", the MCFD, the actual fire department of Mixopolis, fail to be this because they refuse to team up with each other thanks to the negative vibes that the Nixels have been spreading throughout Mixopolis. As such, they argue on working together to save a Mixie Cat from a burning apartment building. However, this leaves the Nindjas free to swoop in and save the day, saving the Mixie Cat while the building crumbles to ashes.
- Newark, NJ mayor and part time Batman Corey Booker came home to find an elderly neighbors home to be on fire. Despite his personal security staff attempting to restrain him he rushed into the burning building and pulled the woman out, suffering second degree burns and smoke inhalation in the process.