A newly super-powered person sees a burning building on TV. He realizes that he can do something to save the people on the top floor. He rushes to the scene and performs the daring rescue. It usually happens at the close of the First Act
of a Super Hero
's origin story. In the beginning of the Second Act, and sometimes even the next scene, the hero will have donned his signature costume.
The superhero version is a turning point, so it doesn't apply to rescue personnel performing their already chosen profession, like firefighters or police. Similarly, established superheroes doing this as a matter of course don't count. The heroic decision has to happen onscreen for it to be a part of this trope.
Although the first paragraph of this trope description refers to a burning building, it could easily be any other sort of natural disaster or accident. At this point in the story, though, there will not be any archvillains yet. In fact, it's conspicuous in deconstructive settings if it is
a burning building; the magnitude of the primary hazards of conflagration
, namely smoke inhalation and heat, are generally underplayed in media.
This is a subtrope of the Call to Adventure
and Heroic Fire Rescue
, and what often follows for the Super Heroes
is an On Patrol Montage
. If a character does this and is not a superhero, then they are showing their heroic nature via a Heroic Fire Rescue
and belong there instead.
Anime and Manga
- In Death Note, a skeptical Light tests the titular notebook on a criminal holding the children in a nursery school hostage. When the criminal drops dead, and the children are freed, Light is shocked. He later tests the note for a second time on a thug harassing a woman outside a shop. Of course, after this, Light ditches the heroics and starts systematically killing criminals.
- Played straight in Shaman King, where Yoh smashes the water tanks on the roof of a burning restaurant with the help of Amidamaru.
- Parodied on Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: otaku student Manseibashi's house is on fire and his little sister is trapped inside. The boy dashes back in — to save a body pillow and some anime/game stuff. In in the interim, his sister is rescued by firefighters. When Manseibashi emerges, his mom immediately slaps him.
- Doraemon once gives Nobita Spider-Man-like powers. Cue a lady trapped in a burning building.
- Slight variation in setting in Heroman. Joey first tests out the titular robot by rescuing a friend and her father from a car collision site.
- Tiger & Bunny plays this straight with one tweak: instead of the burning offshore drilling platform inspiring Blue Rose to take up superheroics, it dissuades her from giving them up.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has the titular character becoming a Magical Girl to save a talking ferretnote from a magical monster.
- Happens in Watchmen when Daniel Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk first don their costumes - Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II - after several years of not wearing them. Almost as soon as they do, they hear of a burning apartment building and take Dan's Owlship (Archie) out to rescue them.
- Wolf-Man's first act as a hero was this.
- The Christopher Reeve version of Superman had him saving people from a variety of accidents at the beginning of the second act.
- In a superb Captain Atom Christmas story, the Captain, newly resigned from the military where he was ordered to be a Mole in the Justice League, finds out about a burning warehouse full of homeless people. He intervenes to save the day and finds that he likes being a superhero for its own sake and resolves to continue as such on his own.
- Used in a variation in Booster Gold, in which Booster pulls out a elevator car full of people from a burning building and because of the smoke no one can see who he is and everyone is wondering who had saved them. The decision is that Booster consciously decided not to go down and let them know who had saved them, with out being guilted into it. A change from the beginning of the series.
- In All Fall Down, Siphon performs one of these in the course of her duties... moments before she's arrested for Super-Manslaughter.
- Cruel subversion in No Hero. The newest member of the Front Line, Joshua Carver, prevents a disabled plane from crashing into a building... then a couple of his fellow supers show up and let him know they killed the pilots and hurled the plane into the building so he'd have something to earn good publicity with.
- The first story in the Night Life in the Big Easy campaign was a Burning Building Rescue.
- In the Gargoyles Fan fiction virtual series, The Gargoyles Saga story, "Turncoat," the editors decided to create a definitive event that would turn the Manhattan Clan's public image around before the public antipathy would have to be ossified into permanent bigotry. Namely, there is a large hotel fire and the Clan helps out the Fire Department while the Quarrymen's bigoted attempts to interfere get exposed on national TV news.
- Invoked in the first Spider-Man film: Green Goblin sets a building on fire to draw in Spider-Man, then disguises himself as an old lady to get Spidey to rescue him. He's crazy enough to know that a hero can't deny an old lady in danger.
- This trope is inverted in the second film. Peter (after losing his powers) rushes to the scene of a burning apartment building, and rescues a small girl (almost losing his life in the process). He then discovers that there were more people on an upper floor that perished due to the fire. He doesn't regain his powers for a few scenes afterwards.
- Another example occurs in The Amazing Spider-Man. Peter, seeing the Lizard's first rampage through New York, rescues a little boy from a burning car about to fall off a bridge. Notable in that the scene begins Peter's shift from a vigilante out to avenge Uncle Ben's death to an actual superhero.
- An aversion: In the movie Jumper, the teleporting Designated Hero passively watches a bunch of drowning people on TV before heading off to the nightclub.
- Subverted in The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible and Frozone are retired superheroes, and only go into the burning building because they want to relive the glory days.
- The comedy film Hero At Large features a burning building rescue at the climax, but a robbery earlier in the film is the Burning Building Rescue.
- Both the comic and the movie of Kick-Ass feature a literal Burning Building Rescue as Kick-Ass and Red Mist's first task as a duo.
- Not sure about the comic, but the movie is more of a subversion. Kick-Ass clearly doesn't intend to go into the building and wants to just call the fire department instead, only going in when Red Mist rushes in first. Also, everyone in the building is already dead, and for an entirely different reason. Finally, everyone in the building was there specifically to capture and kill Kick-Ass anyway.
- The first rescue in the movies (for Kick Ass alone) comes when he saves a man from muggers while everyone else just watches.
- David Dunn's battle with the Maintenance Man serves as his Hero's First Rescue in Unbreakable.
- Set up by the Big Bad in Up, Up and Away! to capture a superhero. In fact, he uses his Well-Intentioned Extremist partner as a Distressed Damsel (against her will). This happens on Scott's 14th birthday, when a bunch of superheroes gather at the Marshalls' to celebrate not only the event but also Scott becoming a superhero. Except it's all a ruse by Scott, who is a Muggle Born of Mages and is afraid to disappoint everyone (the only one who knows is his grandfather, who sees right through the ruse). So when they see the report about a woman trapped in a burning building, one of their friends suggests that Scott make this his first rescue. Since Scott doesn't really have powers, he rides his bicycle to the site, runs past the cops and the firemen, and nearly dies along with the girl. His father flies in just in time to rescue them both after finding out the truth from his own father.
Live Action TV
- In the Incarnations of Immortality series, Death performs one of these to save a child's life.
- In the Discworld novel Reaper Man, Death is retired (but still mostly invulnerable). When he sees a little girl trapped in a burning inn, he thinks to himself that while not interfering is normal for Death, "to Bill Door, he realized, it was so much horse elbows." He then runs into the burning building and protects the girl, despite a cask of boiling brandy exploding.
- Kerowyn, the central character in By the Sword, starts her career as an adventurer and hired sword by rescuing her brother's fiancee. Unfortunately, part of the reason she embarks on her new life is that her actions embarrassed her brother and made everyone else uncomfortable, so she had to leave home.
- In Gone, Sam runs into a burning apartment building to rescue a little girl. Subverted as this isn't Sam's first heroic act (pre-powers, though), he only ran in because no one else would and the girl dies anyway. It does, however, mark him as a hero and a leader in the strange new world for FAYZ, to his chagrin.
- Variation in Heroes, where Claire, in the first episode, runs into a burning train.
- And in the online comics, Nathan Petrelli flies into a burning building to rescue someone.
- Merlin yanking Arthur out of the path of an assassin's knife.
- In the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mike Peterson's heroic debut was climbing up the side of a burning building to rescue a woman trapped in the top floor.
- Paula Carson gets her first taste of action when she fights off an intruder in her laboratory, which eventually leads to her becoming the superheroine Lady Spectra.
- Stone Burners The first time Olivia comes across a thug mugging a woman in a shady part of town, she doesn't even hesitate before leaping to rescue her.
- Whateley Universe: the variation occurs with Phase in his origin novel "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind". He runs in to rescue his sister and ends up having to deal with an entire burning street and a flame-throwing supervillainess. He also finds out that having a supersuit with groin protection would be a really good idea for more than one reason.
- As of "Ayla and the Mad Scientist", this appears to be the backstory for Bladedancer's new roommate THE CRIMSON COMET!!!, who upon getting superpowers, put together her own costume, and at the first opportunity flew downtown to rescue hostages in a bank. She got yelled at enough by the police and her parents that she ended up at Superhero School Whateley Academy.
- Ben's first act as a hero is stopping a forest fire (that he started by accident) with his first transformation. However, his first instance directly saving people actually happens in the second episode where he uses Heatblast to save a woman and a little kid from a burning building. The fire later turns out to be a distraction caused by two men so they can rob a jewelry store.
- The first episode of Danny Phantom has the main character struggling with his new ghost powers, wondering what on Earth he should do with 'em. After a short offscreen duo with the Ectopusses, Danny gets his first real chance to prove his worth as a hero by combating a Lethal Chef that was terrorizing his school. From then on, he Jumped at the Call.
- There is also a photo of Danny playing this trope straight in one episode.
- This is Archangel's first act of Heroism (that we see) in X-Men: Evolution. Interestingly, he doesn't rescue someone's kid from the fire, he rescues someone's paraplegic mother.
- As bad as Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles is, it has a satisfying end when the Big Bad tries to destroy a train carrying arrested Gargoyles, only to provide a spectacular incident when the head hate monger against that race is revealed in front of witnesses to be a murderous madman and the Gargoyles are true blood heroes who successfully stop the train, save hundreds of humans and turn their bad public image around for good.