May 28, 2020
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A secondary story line in this week’s Chicago Fire has a firefighter (Otis) trying to invest in their future with a firefighting robot. It’s probably the funniest episode ever from the six year old franchise.

Dubbed the “Rescue Pal,” and imported direct from Japan the expensive piece of technology does not impress any of the firefighters in the house who are used to doing things a certain way. No technology required. Despite Otis’ best efforts to remain optimistic and hopeful that his fellow firefighters will embrace the new technology. Things, as always don’t go Otis’ way.

When Otis first reveals the, “Rescue Pal,” the firefighters automatically hate it, and believe that it’s going to take their jobs away. Some even call him a traitor for getting the machine in the first place.

Building a little fire in the middle of the firehouse, Otis tries to show off the Rescue Pal’s abilities, but since the manual and the remote control, are both in Japanese Otis has no idea how to operate the thing. Like that classic scene from Independence Day when Will Smith’s character tries to fly an alien spaceship into the mother-ship to deliver a virus. Except instead of launching a weapon at the fire, Otis’ Rescue Pal pathetically squirts out some goo. Leaving the other firefighters to clean up after it.

Even better yet, the robot is kind of big, like the size of a medium-sized dog. So the question then becomes where does one store this useless piece of crap? Well, Otis has a brilliant idea that also pisses off other firefighters. He’s going to put it in the candy/snack cage!

Off screen third shift firefighters who they share the house with, stick a bunch of lollipops all over the robot, showing how much they appreciate Otis’ investment. But Otis obviously cares for the robot so he cleans it up. None of the other firefighters get it or welcome it.

This story line highlights and pokes fun at some of our own fears about AI and robots. Even as the firefighters do everything in their power not to accept the robot, they realize it does suck and it’s just Otis’ way of trying to help out. Robots were never in danger of taking their jobs. Just because Otis bought a robot that might assist them, if he had proper training on it.

While there is a flurry of new firefighter tech like drones and exo-suits available to firefighters and their houses, most of it is not utilized at all! AI and flashy new gadgets have a long way to go before firefighters are in trouble of losing their jobs.



John J. Falco