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Hollywood Fire

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Where there's smoke, there's... 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."
Donald "Shadow" Rimgale, Backdraft

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 Main Characters can't charge in and get everyone out just in time without suffering so much as a first-degree burn.

In reality, any fire bigger than a typical hearth (a few feet or so wide and generated by a few logs) is hot enough that it's dangerous for a human to even approach, let alone enter; a fire the size of a building would generate interior temperatures upwards of 1,000 degrees Celsius - way in excess of what 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 or incapacitated 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). Needless to say, the incredible temperatures caused by actual towering infernos are infamous for the structural damage they can cause - they don't even need to melt things, merely making any metal joints and whatnot somewhat more pliant is more than enough to push a building past its engineering tolerances.

There are two main reasons for all this:

  1. To give the viewer something to see as Real Life smoke often blocks sight down to a foot or less above the floor.
  2. For the safety of everyone on set. Typically, a film crew is only a few yards away from where the fire is, and the actors are sometimes 'in' the fire itself. In a Real Life fire, the film crew would be dead, the camera and film would be destroyed, and the actors and stuntmen would be extra crispy. Among other things.

It may involve Outrun the Fireball. It also often the only explanation for how a Hero can walk Out of the Inferno and not be burnt to a cinder. See Convection, Schmonvection (and, in video games, Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid) for the lava-related equivalent. For materials that burn far more easily in fiction than in Real Life, see Made of Incendium.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Monster, Johan walks into a sea of flames while daring Tenma and Nina to shoot him. He's utterly unharmed. Of course, since he may literally be The Antichrist, an immunity to fire wouldn't be out-of-character.
  • 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 (2002), one chapter involved characters inside a burning, run-down hospital. The heat doesn't seem to hurt them much though.
  • Day Break Illusion, episode 1. Akari does end up passing out, but that had more to do with getting strangled by a daemonia.
  • Averted in Juni Taisen: Zodiac War. The dangers of a burning building are played realistically when Horse is trapped in a burning building. While his Super-Toughness protects him from the flames, the smoke overwhelms and eventually kills him when he becomes disoriented and unable to breathe.
  • The first episode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Nanoha rescuing a young Subaru from an airport fire. Despite wearing nothing but regular clothing and not having any any protective magic, Subaru is perfectly fine other than some comments about how unbearably hot it is. This was the first clue that she's not an ordinary human.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: The first fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin takes place in high school, that the Green Goblin attacked with his fireballs.
  • The New Teen Titans: Averted during the "Who Is Donna Troy?" arc. Donna recalls her rescue from a burning building by Wonder Woman as a toddler, while there are dramatic flames dancing through the apartment it seems the reason Donna survived while the adults all died was that she was too small and low to the ground to have the same level of smoke inhalation.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozone and Mister Incredible are able to talk and move normally while rescuing people from a building fire in The Incredibles. Although it helps that one has ice-based powers, and the other has Super-Strength.
  • In Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Selina suffers almost no ill-effects from being trapped in a burning Ferris wheel car.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
    • Phoebus leaps into a burning mill and rescues the family inside with no injury to either himself or them. More emphasis is placed on the one arrow he takes to the back minutes later!
    • When Esmeralda is nearly burned at the stake at the climax, she's trapped in the fire for almost a full minute before Quasimodo rescues her, but the flames never touch her. Though she does lose consciousness from smoke inhalation, she's perfectly fine after she revives. Quasimodo isn't injured either as he pulls her from the pyre, then grabs the burning stake from its foundation to fight off the soldiers. Averted in the German stage adaptation (see below).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the first Spider-Man film, Spider-Man 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 (to the point of reusing the music), Spider-Man 2 features a powerless Peter Parker heading into a burning building to save a toddler. The fire itself plays it straight as there should be a lot more smoke billowing out of the building, not just the flames in every window. On the other hand, Peter is shown being treated for smoke inhalation by the paramedics as the firefighters finish putting out the blaze.
  • Bruce Wayne's mansion in Batman Begins is burning hot enough to crack the ceiling beams, but falling beams are the only real danger.
  • In Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door..., Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) revives himself from a smoke inhalation-induced faint to rescue his unconscious wife from the burning house.
  • 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).
  • In the film adaptations of Carrie, the titular character sets her gym on fire and calmly walks through the inferno to survey the destruction. The 2002 version might have a Hand Wave, where she goes into a trance while causing the massacre, and she's seen clearing a path for herself to avoid the electronic scoreboard electrocuting her like everyone else, so she's possibly protecting herself with some psychic shield. The 2013 film has her levitating off the stage to get out, but Miss Desjardin is otherwise fine from simply being left there while the fire is going on. Notably in the book, the trope was averted; Carrie runs out of the gym first and then causes her destruction from the outside, and the only survivors are the ones who make it out through the fire doors before Carrie locks them.
  • 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 Charlie's 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 (2008), 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.
  • In Sorority Row, the final confrontation between the killer and the final girls takes place inside the burning sorority house. Nobody treats the blaze as anything more than a minor annoyance. Especially egregious as the girls are dressed in only lingerie and flimsy shirts.
  • Hard Target: The final showdown between Chance and the bad guys is a Battle Amongst the Flames in a workshop full of old parade floats, but there is no smoke, and no one suffers any ill effects from radiant heat, smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, or any one of the other myriad hazards that should be present in an enclosed, burning, industrial environment.
  • Last Night in Soho's climax happens while Miss Collins/Sandy's house is on fire, and Eloise is able to have a confrontation with the former and the ghosts of her victims without suffering any ill-effects, presumably because Talking Is a Free Action, and it at least happens on the highest floor. John however is stabbed and left bleeding on the ground floor when the fire starts, and is there for the whole confrontation, and both he and Eloise are shown to be fine after a Time Skip of six months, with a couple of shots of paramedics treating them for smoke inhalation.

  • 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."
  • 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, which 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.
  • Subverted in Raise Some Hell when Ramona gets caught under a wooden beam in the middle of a fire, she loses her eye because a flaming chip flies into it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fate: The Winx Saga:
    • Bloom's Traumatic Superpower Awakening involved setting her house on fire. Her stepmother Vanessa only came away with a burn on her forearm where the flames got her, but the scene shows the entire room being on fire, and no mention of smoke damage. For Bloom, it's hand waved by them being Required Secondary Powers. Season 2 implies that the spirit of her fairy mother helped her put out the fire immediately.
    • While fire fairies seem to be protected from their magically conjured fire, there are moments where other characters are standing near Bloom when she's conjured fire and don't seem to be affected. It is revealed that Bloom has the Dragon Flame, which is more powerful and primal, so another hand wave could explain it.
  • 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.
  • Heroes:
    • In the 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 steps 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 needs 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 2 revealed that one character had started working as a fireman. Considering his intangibility powers, that came in pretty useful.
  • Smallville:
    • In one episode, 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 particularly 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:
    • The episode "Mystery of the Flickering Torch" has Frank & Joe trapped in a small closet while fire rages outside; the only sign they have that the fire even exists is a bit of smoke under the door. When they finally break out, the fire has completely engulfed the office in lots & lots of flames, though not the closet, and the brothers dive heroically through the now-smokeless fire to the next room...where there's absolutely no sign of any fire at all, save for the firefighters coming into the building.
    • Second season episode "Arson & Old Lace" has an arsonist setting several raging fires in an office building. Massive amounts of flames rage in an empty office, where the arsonist has been knocked out by an explosion. Yet the flames very carefully don't touch her, nor does the massive fire & intense heat interfere with Frank and Joe dragging the woman out of the room. We're also shown many stock footage scenes of fire fighters battling out-of-control fire all over the walls, ceiling, and floor. On top of that, Joe detours to help a young child trapped in an office; flames come roaring in to cover the ceiling and trigger an explosion, yet Joe ducks behind a half-wall and, aside from a bit of soot-smudge, takes no damage from either fire nor explosion.
  • The Magician: In "Illusion in Terror", Tony is locked inside a burning barn but seems to suffer no ill effects from the heat. And while there is some smoke, there is not nearly enough.


    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • The Evil Within 2 also opens with Sebastian bursting into his burning home to try and rescue his daughter, Lily; parts of the upper floor are collapsing around him and he reacts to the heat and smoke, but neither is able to stop him from getting to her room upstairs. Perhaps justified because it's a recurring nightmare for Sebastian, who is haunted by the fact that he wasn't around to even try saving her when the fire actually did happen.
  • 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, which 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 from the burning environment. In Culling of Stratholme, 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. He conceals the party's escape from the encroaching monsters with— seriously— a smoke bomb.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, the first level is like this. Flames span the bottom of the screen throughout the entire stage, even after you go into the room at the end of the hall, where the only smoke in the level is found. In the arcade version, there are also occasional patches of fire on the ground. None of the fire in the level hurts you even if you walk right into it.
  • In the final act of Bloodborne, Gehrman sets the workshop in the Hunter's Dream on fire to signify the end of the hunt, which can still be walked into and interacted with without difficulty. Justified by the fact that it exists inside an ethereal dream world.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Completing all the firetruck missions makes CJ entirely fireproof, which can be a Disc-One Nuke if done early on.
  • Soul Calibur II: The stage used for Inferno's boss fight steadily fills up with flames as the fight progresses. The only effect it has is making it more difficult to see Inferno's attacks.

    Web Animation 


    Western Animation 
  • 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.