Where there's smoke... wait, where's the smoke?
"It's a living thing, Brian. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it. To know that this flame will spread this way across the door and up across the ceiling, not because of the physics of flammable liquids, but because it wants to."
Fires are always an opportunity for major drama and heroics: How better to show that The Hero
is a real Badass
than by having him literally walk through fire? And how better to show that he's selfless than by having him save someone (preferably a child) from a burning building
? Hollywood Fires are distinguished by lots and lots of flames... so many flames, in fact, that they cover nearly every object around. The flames obscure sight and form obstacles that can be dramatically jumped through. Burning debris is all over the place and falls from the ceiling to dramatically block escape routes. Also, in more action-oriented shows, the fire tends to stay strangely toned-down and never exceed certain boundaries, allowing enough room for an epic fight over a fire.
Interestingly enough, smoke is usually nowhere to be seen. Additionally, the burning environment is stable and does not collapse or fall (except for the already mentioned falling debris) for as long as it takes for the hero to strut his stuff. Only when he's leaving the fire does a burning building suddenly explode in flames and possibly collapse.
In Hollywood, fire is dangerous and deadly, but not so much that the protagonists can't charge in and get everyone out just in time without suffering so much as a first-degree burn.
, any fire of that size would generate far more heat (easily around 1,000 degrees Celsius) than any human being could survive. More importantly, any large burning area would be completely filled with very dense and very deadly smoke (the vast majority of people who die in fires are killed by the smoke, which could be considered a mercy for those who would otherwise have burned to death - but not so much for those who would otherwise have escaped, or never been reached by the flames).
Related to Convection Schmonvection
and Outrun the Fireball
. Often the only explanation for how a Hero
can walk Out of the Inferno
and not be burnt to a cinder.
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Anime and Manga
- In Monster, Johan walked into a sea of flames while daring Tenma and Nina to shoot him. He was utterly unharmed.
- In the first episode of Samurai Champloo this seems to be the case when the two lead ronin launch into a duel inside a burning teashop. Ultimately, they're knocked out by the smoke and pulled from the ruins by less-than-helpful rescuers.
- In Life, one chapter involved characters inside a burning, run-down hospital. The heat doesn't seem to hurt them much though.
- Il Sole penetra le Illusioni, episode 1. Akari does end up passing out, but that had more to do with getting strangled by a daemonia.
Film — Animated
- Frozone and Mister Incredible are able to talk and move normally while rescuing people from a building fire in The Incredibles. Possibly justified by the fact that Frozone is An Ice Person (even if he's out of water), while Mister Incredible is invulnerable.
- Fridge Brilliance. The reason Frozone is dehydrated even though he knew that he was going off to do Hero Work is because his body is passively using all of his water to keep him alive in the burning building.
Film — Live-Action
- In the first Spider-Man film, Spidey and the Green Goblin have what amounts to a business meeting inside a raging inferno. In what might be a Call Back to the above, the second movie features a powerless Peter Parker heading into a burning building to save a toddler.
- Bruce Wayne's mansion in Batman Begins is burning hot enough to crack the ceiling beams, but falling beams are the only real danger.
- The firefighters in Backdraft were caught in several fires that should have roasted them alive, protective gear or not.
- Most "firefighter" movies like Ladder 49 and Backdraft do try to avoid this trope, mostly because in that genre of movie it's a lot harder to get away with not doing the research.
- In the page image the lack of smoke is actually justified in that room in the background appears to have flashed over, meaning that the smoke itself is on fire. Two humans coming out of those conditions as anything other than charred corpses, however, is somewhat less justified (in the actual film, as opposed to the publicity still, the room is filled with thick smoke and a good deal less fire).
- Averted in The Terminator. When Kyle Reese manages to blow up the fuel truck that the eponymous cyborg is driving, the ensuing fireball burns away the Terminator's clothing and flesh, revealing the metal skeleton underneath. The metal is also shown to be a very strong futuristic alloy.
- In Highlander II: The Quickening, Connor MacLeod is hit by a fuel truck that promptly explodes. Even given the fact that he is immortal and heals quickly, he should have been vaporized given the heat created by the fire, But no... he strides out of the fireball completely unharmed, accompanied by dramatic music and a wind that causes his Badass Longcoat to blow behind him.
- A simplistic (and parodic) version appears in Hot Shots! Part Deux: President Tug Benson enters Saddam Hussein's palace, swings on a rope and falls into a fireplace... but emerges moments later, saying, "My skin's made of asbestos. Tanning parlor accident at Dien Bien Phu."
- In Charlies Angels Full Throttle, Implacable Man Seamus O'Grady survives a roaring inferno. There is no explanation for this.
- In RoboCop (1987), Robo survives being caught in a gas station explosion with only a little soot on his improbably shiny armor.
- In the movie version of Needful Things, Leland Gaunt survives when Dan Keaton blows up Gaunt's shop with both he and Gaunt still inside. Of course, this is justified because Leland Gaunt is actually the Devil in disguise.
- In The Incredible Hulk, the Hulk brings down a helicopter which, thanks to the law of conservation of momentum, continues to move toward him and Betty Ross despite being turned into burning wreck. The Hulk shelters Betty with his own body, but they are still engulfed in an inferno that should have roasted her alive despite the big green meatshield. HULK LAUGH AT PUNY PHYSICS!
- Averted in the hobo movie Emperor of the North; Ernest Borgnine's character briefly climbs inside a burning boxcar, and proceeds to almost cough his lungs out from smoke inhalation.
- Averted in Hancock where we see the eponymous hero after putting out an apartment fire. His clothes are mostly burned away, and for all of his invulnerability, he still admits that he was hurt.
- There's a bit in Going Postal where this trope is explicitly reference. Moist von Lipwig goes into a burning building to save a cat, and doesn't leave when he has the opportunity because "A man that goes into a burning building to save a cat and does so, is a hero. A man that comes without a cat is just a toff." Paraphrased.
- Every time Charlie McGee uses her powers in Firestarter. Especially near the end where she's throwing fireballs and setting everything around her on fire just by walking by.
- In Good Omens, Noble Demon Crowley's car bursts into flames, and he drives down the highway inside of it literally holding it together through sheer will. Of course, he is a demon.
- In the beginning of Consider Phlebas, the main character finds himself in a ship attacked by a Culture spaceship. Said ship was hidden in the local sun. Yep: the ship (which is sentient) willingly went inside the sun in order to surprise the enemy: one would wonder why the Idirans bother to keep fighting at this point.
- In Dear Enemy, the sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, Dr. MacRae gets his moment of heroism by rescuing a baby from the burning orphanage.
Live Action TV
- In an NCIS episode, Tony rescues a little boy from a burning building. He wears the hood of his hoodie for protection but he can see and breathe perfectly normally.
- In the Heroes episode "Powerless", Niki saves Monica from a typical Hollywood Fire, but stays behind till the explosion. No One Could Survive That.
- Subverted in the first season: Claire stepped from the gutted remains of her home (after sedating Ted before he went critical and took out the neighborhood) covered in third-to-fourth-degree-burns. of course, given her powers, by the time she made it into her father's arms halfway across the lawn she merely needed a shower and some clothes. But she was, for a time at least, hurt by the fire.
- Played straight between Volumes 3 and 4, when Sylar is incapacitated by a shard of glass into his brainstem, said to be the only thing that will kill a healer for good. When the building burns down around him, the glass melts first and he survives, despite the fact that a fire hot enough to melt glass would have burnt him to nothing long before.
- Also, a flashback episode in season two revealed that one character had started working as a fireman. Considering his intangibility powers, that came in pretty useful.
- In one episode of Smallville, Clark does the same thing to protect a young boy from a meteor. The flames engulf both, but since the boy is "shielded" by Clark, he's unharmed.
- This is particulary strange, as the meteor in question is a lump of kryptonite, so Clark should be in worse shape than the boy.
- And somewhat averted in season 10 where Hawkman shields himself from a fireball with his wings, only when he is next seen diving out of the window he is fine, but his wings are on fire.
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries abuses this twice:
- "Mystery of the Flickering Torch" has Frank & Joe trapped inside a small closet while a fire rages outside; they break out and dodge through the flames to the outside without even a singe to their clothing.
- "Arson & Old Lace" has Frank, Joe, and Nancy all trying to escape a burning office building. To be fair, Joe nearly gets blown to kingdom come when he almost opens a door that has smoke pouring from under it (Frank knocks him out of the way), but then both Hardys are shown entering rooms with raging flames to rescue people, with no ill effects beyond a bit of smudge and coughing.
- A Boss Fight in Resident Evil 4 takes place in a small wooden barn during an all-consuming gasoline fire. This has no effect on anything at all except for creating minor visibility issues. The ceiling is high enough to keep the smoke from reaching the player before the fight is over, but the heat still doesn't seem to be a problem. The fact that you can climb up to the smoke-filled rafters and continue fighting just makes things worse!
- Silent Hill Origins began with Travis bursting into a flaming house to rescue the little girl inside. The stairs collapse after he climbs them, and he falls through the floor at one point.
- Sonic The Hedgehog 3: In Angel Island Zone, the entire jungle gets napalmed, and continued burning until sometime after you finish the level. This is the very first level, and therefore the easiest in the game.
- Perhaps the most egregious example in World of Warcraft is the city of Stratholme that has been on fire for more than half a decade. Despite this, people entering the streets of this inferno don't even face a penalty for the burning environment.
- In the Culling of Stratholme instance, Arthas comments that the fire is just as dangerous to your party as the undead. Except it still isn't.
- Alone In The Dark 2008 is pretty blatant with its otherwise innovative fire system. No convection or deadly smoke here.
- In Final Fantasy VI, the party's visit to Thamasa culminates with them having to enter a burning house to rescue Relm. Despite the fact that the walls are completely ablaze and the halls are patrolled by flaming, self-exploding bomb monsters, the heroes have no trouble breathing or walking around, even taking the opportunity to sidetrack for some rare loot. It's not until after the boss fight that the group realize they're trapped and collapse. Even then, Shadow comes to the rescue, because ninjas are too cool for flames.
- For a show where people who can create fire from their hands and mouth are the main villains, Avatar: The Last Airbender presses pretty hard on this trope. Fire is only dangerous when you touch it; this is justified in the case of Firebenders who can manipulate it, but it also happens for others. Smoke is pretty much nonexistent, even with non-bending fire.
- Averted thoroughly by Fireman Sam, which was as realistic as the special effects and the target demographic permitted; fires create large amounts of smoke, and they also made a point of showing the crew donning proper breathing apparatus before entering a burning building. Considering that every episode contained An Aesop about fire safety this is only natural.