“I’ve been afraid of fire my whole life”

The newest firefighter cast member of ‘9-1-1’ faced some very personal fears when she joined the hit Fox series about first responders.

“I’ve been afraid of fire my whole life. Yes, I applied for this job. But my house burned down when I was a kid,” Arielle Kebbel, 37, told the Post, adding that she was about 4 at the time.

“I watched my mother carry my brother out of the house; My sister and I grabbed the animals. I have vivid memories of the smells and sound of the ambulance,” she said. “[The firefighters] saved our lives. When I first got this job, my family’s response was, ‘How do you feel about this?’ because everyone knows that fire is hard for me. But I felt like it was time to literally walk into the fire and face it.”

In its fifth season, “9-1-1” (Mondays at 9 p.m.) follows the personal and professional lives of various LA first responders and the emergencies they face on the job. Among them are Patrol Sergeant Athena Grant-Nash (Angela Bassett) and her husband, Fire Station 118 Captain Bobby Nash (Peter Krause); caring, impulsive firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark); Buck’s sister Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt); the loyal and even-tempered paramedic Henrietta “Hen” Wilson (Aisha Hinds); and light-hearted firefighter/paramedic Howie “Chimney” Han (Kenneth Choi).

Arielle Kebbel in fire department uniform.
Arielle Kebbel as firefighter Lucy Donato, the newest cast in 9-1-1.
Aisha Hinds as Henrietta
Aisha Hinds as Henrietta “Hen” Wilson and Oliver Stark at right as Buck in “9-1-1-“.

Kebbel plays Lucy Donato, a firefighter who works with the 118 team. She’s bold and confident, and at her introduction in the spring premiere on March 21, sparks flew between Lucy and Buck as they kissed.

“Her backstory is that she has three brothers and comes from a family of police officers. She is the black sheep. Instead, she’s a firefighter and very proud of that decision,” Kebbel said. “Everyone has a lot to say about that kiss from Buck. I look forward to the upcoming episodes [because] Lucy has some great saves. A lot of her stuff is with Buck, but there is also a nice moment between Lucy and Chimney.”

She hinted that the storyline leaves room for further development with Lucy when the series is renewed for a sixth season.

Wearing a flannel shirt and holding a phone, Jennifer Love Hewitt is standing outside and looking worried.
Jennifer Love Hewitt as Maddie in 9-1-1.

Kebbel, a veteran actress who has appeared in a number of films and shows including John Tucker Must Die, The Vampire Diaries, Gilmore Girls, 90210 and Midnight, Texas, said she was no stranger to the level of physicality her “9-1-1” role requires.

“I grew up with sport and used to want to be a professional rider. It’s natural who I am and I’ve enjoyed bringing that bit of athleticism to my characters,” she said. “But especially with ‘Midnight, Texas,’ because I was playing an assassin, I had to be very aware of how secure the set is and what it means to have guns on set, whether real or fake. I was excited [for ‘9-1-1’] because I’ve never played a fireman and it’s the most physically demanding job I’ve ever done.

“They use real fire on set. We’ve got all our gear on and we’re breathing on tanks and they’re very heavy,” she said. “It’s staged, but it’s real fire. So what prepared me the most was learning how to speak up and be present and safe while we’re doing these stunts.”

Angela Bassett is sitting in a car looking serious.
Angela Bassett as Athena in 9-1-1-.

She said her first fire stunt was “a big moment for me, emotionally and physically” thanks to her previous experience with fire as a kid, but she felt supported by the cast and crew.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into [joining the show]. I was aware it was season 5, I wasn’t sure if the cast was close… It’s like the first day of school all over again,” she said. And I’m so impressed with this cast and crew. It really is one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on. It’s tough mentally and physically, so the camaraderie of the cast and crew is the glue that holds things together.”

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