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‘Chicago Fire’ star Jesse Spencer rescued by real firefighters in Springfield (VIDEO)
“Chicago Fire” actor Jesse Spencer had to use his rescue skills in real life Sunday when he and a group of tourists got stuck in an elevator for an hour in the Illinois State Capitol.
Spencer was sightseeing in Springfield with his parents, who are visiting from his native Australia. They were about to begin a tour of the 19th century building and were the last ones to file into the Capitol’s elevator. The crowded elevator soon came to an abrupt stop, trapping everyone inside.
“People started to freak out,” said Spencer, who plays Lt. Matt Casey on the Chicago-filmed NBC drama. “It was packed. There were, like, 30 people in there. It was getting so hot. It’s claustrophobic. One poor girl had a fear of being trapped in elevators.”
No one could get cell phone reception. They used the phone in the elevator to reach the building’s communications center. The operator insisted on calling the elevator mechanic instead of 911, Spencer said.
“People were getting mad because admin wouldn’t call the fire department because it’s not protocol,” he said. “We’re like, ‘Oh thanks, that’s great. We’ll just wait here.’”
Spencer was wearing a “Chicago Fire” baseball cap, so some of the people mistook him for an actual firefighter. Others recognized him from the show. Both scenarios ramped up the pressure on Spencer to take charge.
“That’s why I had to do something,” he said with a laugh during an interview Tuesday on the set of “Fire.”
“Eventually I managed to get the doors open so we could get air in,” said the actor, who pried them open with his hands. “Once we got the doors opened it relieved the tension. I took turns getting people that were freaking out over near the door. I didn’t want them sticking their heads out in case the elevator took off again.”
Spencer also opened the elevator’s fire access panel to create a draft.
After being stuck for more than a half hour, a woman managed to get a weak signal on her cell phone and called the Springfield Fire Department. Firefighters arrived about 10 minutes later, Spencer said.
“We would have been stuck there for a long time if she hadn’t got reception,” he added.
Passengers assumed they were trapped near the top of the building, somewhere around the fourth floor. That’s where the firefighters initially went.
“We’d actually dropped down to the basement and were sitting right on the very bottom,” Spencer said. “They came down and managed to open the other door which we couldn’t open and got us out.”
Thanks Springfield FD saved us from an elevator at the Capitol Building. Stuck for an hour, I muscled the doors open pic.twitter.com/I1BA9GtLm4
— Jesse Spencer (@Jesse_Spencer) April 1, 2014
He’s not the first “Chicago Fire” cast member to get a helping hand from his real-life counterparts. Firefighters responded to a call last year from David Eigenberg, who plays firefighter Christopher Herrmann. The Naperville native reported a possible gas leak in his Bucktown home. It turned out to be a false alarm.
Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker called Sunday’s events at the Capitol an isolated incident.
“I certainly would apologize to anyone who was on that elevator or friends and family who were inconvenienced by this,” he said.
Druker said it is protocol to contact the building’s mechanic, not 911, if the elevator has problems. That policy is being re-evaluated, he said, and tour guides are being told “to be much more sensitive” about the number of people being squeezed into the elevator.
The elevator’s maximum weight limit is 5,000 pounds, Spencer said. He estimates the 30 or so adults and kids weighed around 4,000 pounds.
“We didn’t overload it,” he said. “It’s just an old elevator.”
Once they were freed, the Spencers continued their Springfield sightseeing with a trip to the 16th president’s home, his tomb and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, “which was amazing,” he said.
They never did get an in-depth look around the Capitol.
“I’ll have to go back and do the tour,” he said. “I’ll probably take the stairs.”