Jerry and Tom Ritter are the last brothers in a poor Bronx Irish family that has already lost two sons to freak accidents. They're close, but their lives have moved in different directions. Tom is a family man, happily married with four kids in the suburbs. Jerry swings; they both fight fires. But men do their jobs for reasons as different as love and money, and when the strike vote forces them to take a stand, the distance between them widens. We follow them, as we follow the political and human drama of the srike and the inferno that nearly burns the city. In the Meropolitan Museum, mummies are frantically wheeled away as flames lick into the Egyptian wind and threaten to burn the paintings off the walls in the galleries upstairs. And lives are lost.
Always the question of responsibility looms large. Are firemen different from other people because their job is the protection of life? Or is it just a job? What's the difference if a man picks up garbage, operates a lathe, or fights fire? Dennis Smith knows the answer; he's still a fireman.