When the cast of the Columbia Pictures' movie "Only the Brave" came to Denver recently, Colorado Springs firefighters were among the invited guests at a VIP screening.
Capt. Steve Wilch, public information officer for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, his wife, and several other local firefighters and their significant others traveled to Denver's Four Season Hotel on Oct. 11 for a red carpet event for the film, which began showing Friday.
It was a treat for the men and women who fight wildland fires in Colorado to have the opportunity to dress to the nines and mingle with some of the film's actors, including Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly.
Many of the firefighters had a chance to take selfies with the stars, who later thanked the group for what they do.
"There were quite a few firefighters in uniform," Wilch said. "Everyone that I saw was dressed either in their Class A or Class B fire department uniform. We were very lucky to be on the red carpet. My wife, Amy, was especially excited to interact with Brolin."
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the film received positive reviews from many media outlets, including Tribune News Service - whose review by Katie Walsh was published in The Gazette. Walsh gave the film a rare A+.
"I, too, gave it an A or A+," Wilch said. "The human tragedy was very touching because we consider ourselves a large family - the U.S. Fire Service embraces one another - and to relive that, I think they did a great job of portraying it."
The movie recounts the true story of the Yarnell Hill Fire, ignited by lightning in Arizona in June 2013. Nineteen members of an elite firefighting crew, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, perished while battling the blaze.
"I thought it was very realistic, and I'm a wildland and a structural firefighter," Wilch said. "Josh Brolin was a crew supervisor and he was true to character. (Eric Marsh, whom Brolin played) had to be almost a little more larger than life to face fires that we do. He did a good job of portraying it from that perspective. And he showed our human shortcomings or frailties. Because as firefighters we all are human."
"Only the Brave" is in theaters at a time when deadly fires rage in Sonoma County, California and firefighters are putting their lives on the line every day.
Wilch said watching the movie brought back memories of fighting the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012 and the Black Forest fire a year later, which happened about the same time as the fire in Arizona on which the film is based.
"The last scene was tough," Wilch said. "Of course, we already know what happens. But it was hard to revisit and to live through that again."
There are 436 certified wildland firefighters in the Colorado Springs Fire Department. That's every firefighter in the department, Wilch said.
Of those, about a third are wildland technicians, and have completed a high level of wildland training, he said.