Local Company, Fire in Motion, Brings Safety to Set and Autheticity to Screen

Posted on November 21, 2011 by


It’s unlikely the average American watching one of the countless television dramas about police departments, law enforcement or criminal investigations ever stops to ask themselves where  producers find all of the emergency equipment featured on screen.  Indeed, if the producers of NCIS, CSI, Prime Suspect, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist and other shows started asking local fire departments to loan them vehicles, there wouldn’t be any available to actually fight fires.  So where, exactly, do all of these fire trucks and ambulances come from?

If you have been watching The Mentalist this season, not to mention a host of other shows, it’s a safe bet the fire trucks and ambulance vehicles were from Fire in Motion.  Family-owned and operated, Fire in Motion got its start in 2005 when Jim Koenekamp and his brother Steve began renting out a couple of retired fire trucks they restored for use by local charities and in community parades.  Little did the brothers know that their passion for restoring old fire trucks would one day result in calls from Hollywood.   Steve, a former firefighter with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, passed away earlier this year, but Fire in Motion’s work continues under Jim’s leadership.

A retired firefighter, Jim served with both the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department after cutting his teeth at the U.S. Forest Service.  Jim is also a proud member of Teamsters Local 399, and the fictional “Engine Company 399” emblazoned on Fire in Motion’s vehicles is a nod to the union local. As a Teamster, Jim has driven everything from Honeywagons (the industry’s affectionate nickname for mobile toilets),  to semis, to carrier trucks hauling picture cars.  “There is nothing I haven’t driven” Jim recently told Film Works staffers.  We don’t doubt it.

As of 2011, Fire in Motion maintains the largest selection of fully operational fire apparatus servicing the film and television industry.  Fire in Motion’s fleet includes one two-door and one four-door fire engine, a 34.5-foot ladder engine truck, a battalion chief suburban vehicle, a rescue ambulance, a medic ambulance and a Ford Crown Victoria (which are used by EMS and fire division chiefs).

And when Jim says the Fire in Motion fleet is fully operational, he means just that.  From the tools in the engine compartments to the medical gauze and bags of saline in the ambulance, there is no difference between Fire in Motion’s fleet and the vehicles operated by your local fire department.  Fire in Motion is the only company in the entertainment business with a fully stocked and fully functional ambulance, which makes it the most popular and in-demand vehicle in the fleet.  Because Fire in Motion provides fully-functional vehicles, producers get much more than complete authenticity, they also get all of the added safety benefits such vehicles entail.  Not only are Fire in Motion’s vehicles the “real deal”, they also come equipped with a trained crew of actual first-responders.  Jim told Film Works that he has a group of over two-dozen men and women who work as fire fighters or medics across greater Los Angeles.  When Jim gets the call, he can hire these men and women to operate Fire in Motion’s vehicles used on any particular set.  For the off-duty first responders who work for Jim at Fire in Motion, the film and television industry provides a value source of supplemental income.

For 22-year-old paramedic Nicholas DiFatta, a four-year Fire in Motion employee, film and television gigs bring more than just additional income.  Because film companies call on Fire in Motion’s fleet to portray fire departments from all over the U.S., the decals used on the vehicles can change for each job.  To meet Fire in Motion’s need for such decals, Jim turned to DiFatta’s Code R Decals and Graphics.  Launched in 2007,  DiFatta’s small printing company was a natural pick for Fire in Motion, as DiFatta’s design work was in high demand by fire departments across California.   Bringing DiFatta’s authentic design to the Fire in Motion fleet has earned Code R Decals & Graphics some new Hollywood customers.  In addition to his government client roster of fire departments and other agencies, DiFatta’s work has appeared in over 14 film and television productions including Bones, The Mentalist and Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Are there other advantages to the authenticity Fire in Motion brings to the screen?  Sure there are.  As Jim loves to say, “the people who do special effects in the entertainment industry are very good at starting fires, but they suck at putting them out. A fully functional fire truck of manned by professional fire fighters is infinitely more capable  of extinguishing a fire threat than a water truck manned by special effects crews dressed in casual clothing.”

Jim told Film Works he is happy when a production team asks for advice on depicting fire-fighting scenes, but he’s thrilled when they choose to make use of services as a professional fire fighter.  For people like Jim, “to protect and to serve” is a way of life.

It can also make good economic sense for producers.  If a production hires Fire in Motion, there is no need to spend additional money on things special effects crews ordinarily require, such as water trucks.  Jim also said that having a fully functional fleet of working emergency vehicles manned by off-duty first responders could be a way for productions to lower their liability insurance premiums, which can be very costly.

Whether its fighting fires or making movies, both are dream jobs for countless Americans.   For Jim and his team at Fire in Motion, they get paid to do both.   You gotta love how Film Works for Los Angeles.