Netflix Shows Inside the Lives of First Responders

November 8, 2017|

By Samantha Barksdale

Have you ever taken a few moments to thank a first responder for the job they do? We take for granted that they will always show up when we need them, but we never truly consider what it takes to do their job. This month’s reviews of two Netflix documentaries are dedicated to just that, and are meant to serve as a thank you to those who run to the emergency, not away from it.


We all know things are tough in Detroit. The loss of factories meant the loss of jobs and the mass exodus of roughly two-thirds of the city’s population. It also means there are a lot of abandoned buildings, about 80,000 of them. Detroit is an arsonist’s playground, and as of 2012, had the highest rates in the country. Detroit’s firefighters work tirelessly to protect their city, and Burn follows their triumphs and tragedies.

If you’ve never considered what it’s like to run into a burning building, Burn will give you a first-hand perspective. The heat is intense, the smoke is blinding and the firefighters don’t know the layout of the home. Couple that with the fact that bathtubs, air conditioning units and even water beds are liable to fall through the ceiling on top of the very people there to save the structure. It’s terrifying just watching it on a screen.

Firefighters don’t just face physical danger; emotional damage can happen in an instant. Watching families lose their homes and everything they own, loss of life, and a city without money to guarantee the pension so many have worked for takes a toll on these men and their families.

When you watch Burn, plan to get emotional. Then go thank a firefighter. They work harder than you know.


While we typically think a firefighter’s job is battling blazes, there is much more to what they do. They’re called first responders, and quite often they respond to calls that have nothing to do with fire.

Huntington, W.V., has been called the Overdose Capital of the nation. As a blue-collar town, many residents of Huntington work jobs that require manual labor and often result in injury. Injury leads to pain, pain leads to prescription medication, and when the prescription runs out, heroin is the next best thing.

Heroin(e) is a Netflix original that follows three women in Huntington as they fight the opioid crisis in their community. The city’s fire chief works to provide firefighters with the medication needed to stop an overdose, even though they aren’t required to use it and some feel it encourages drug use. A drug court judge provides men and women with an opportunity to get into rehab and clean up their lives, provided they follow all the rules. Finally, a ministry worker takes food and Scripture to the streets, hoping to change the lives of the women selling themselves to feed their addictions.

This film isn’t fun to watch; it’s heartbreaking. While a woman who once had the potential to do something great with her life overdoses in a gas station, the cashier keeps ringing up customers. Everybody is used to this, so life just goes on. It’s the first responders who deal with it, day in and day out, saving addicts multiple times – and sometimes not.

Heroin(e) is most certainly worth watching. If you didn’t know how awful the opioid crisis is, you’ll see it firsthand. You’ll also be prompted, once again, to thank our first responders for what they do. They answer the call, no matter what the emergency, and we should all treat them with a lot more respect.

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