Gulfport firefighters play supporting roles in German documentary

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "Cameras rolling!" a lady shouted.

"And action please!" yelled the director.

The scene began with Gulfport firefighters deliberately torching piles of wooden pallets.  As the camera crew waited patiently for the flames to reach extreme intensity, the star of the show put on a special fireproof suit. He was preparing for a dangerous feat, a walk through walls of fire in the name of science.

"It feels like I'm going to walk on the moon. It's really heavy gear, isn't it?" Dirk Steffens commented as he wore the 60 pound suit.

Steffans is the host of a new German documentary "How Earth Made Men." The series focuses on the four elements: Fire, earth, water and air.

"We were searching for the right suit to do this special shot and we found it here in America," said Ruth Omphalius, Producer and Director of the documentary. "And the second step was to find a real fire department and a place where to do the shot. And here in Mississippi, people are very friendly."

The BBC also shot a similar program with the Gulfport Fire Department two years ago. So the German crew turned the Gulfport Fire Station on Three Rivers Road into a movie set.

"It's real exciting. We feel honored that they asked us to be a part of this," said Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt.

The firefighters pulled a dummy through the inferno first. Then, it was Steffens' turn. He seemed calm, even though he noticed smoke coming from the dummy's suit.

"These are professional firefighters. They wouldn't send me into a fire. Maybe they don't like me. Maybe I'm wrong," Steffens joked.

Steffens bravely walked through flames that were so intense, temperatures reached beyond 1,000 degrees.  He agreed to walk through the searing heat again and again, so the crew could capture that perfect shot.

"You think you have hot summer days here in Mississippi, try that one. That is hot. It feels a little bit like hell," said Steffens after his daring endeavor.

The relieved host and crew can thank the Gulfport firefighters, who made walking through fire look easy. The documentary will air on German public television in September.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.