Yant was extremely flattered by at least one tribute to himself in the film; actor Robert Patrick had a scorpion drawn on his forearm to match Yant's tattoo.
Training wrapped up in mid-March, and then every day, Yant advised the cast and crew on all aspects of how to portray the Baltimore fire service, from dialogue, to how to wear their helmet or carry their axe, to what to have for lunch.
Yant said some of the firefighting and physical activity the actors did on the set was quite impressive, because unlike putting out a real fire once, he said, "Imagine having to do that take after take from every angle." They might spend 12 hours on a one room fire, he said.
"I've got to give them credit, they would keep going," Yant said.
Yant also praised the movie's special effects and accuracy. He said just a few things had to be altered for Hollywood; the smoke had to be lighter than in real life, and the firefighters' nose pieces are missing from their masks so that their faces can be seen.
A few other things that might look like mistakes were actually done on purpose, Yant said. For example, when you see Phoenix as a rookie he does everything by the book, but as his character gets more seasoned you see all the little things that might change.
For example, he might not always have his top button done, or not be belted in on the aerial ladder. "I know that's going to be a problem with some people," Yant said. "We have standard operations and procedures but sometimes it all goes to hell."
There's one scene in particular that has raised some eyebrows - when John Travolta's character is seen having an alcoholic drink at the firehouse.
"People ask, 'Why did you let that happen,'" Yant said. "Look at the years - When Joaquin comes in as a rookie, don't tell me there wasn't booze in the firehouses, in the 80's," he said. "Nowadays we don't do that."
Yant said the most intense part of the movie experience was filming the climactic high rise fire, for which about 300 Baltimore firefighters were involved, "running around and being firemen," Yant said. It was a strange and difficult role for all of them, knowing that an inferno was about to erupt and then having to hold back as the flaming debris rained down.
"I was a nervous wreck leading up to this," Yant said. "We had charged hose lines ready, and were on our knees waiting. When that thing blew - I told all my guys - you can't move - we don't want to ruin this shot. I'll tell you when."
As the firefighters held back amidst the destruction, "I'm like please hurry," Yant said. "We had stuff burning and falling everywhere. It was nerve wracking."
Yant noted that Baltimore at no time lost equipment or manpower to the movie, and that everything was done with reserve or out of service equipment.
Yant himself appears briefly in the film as Travolta's aid during the massive fire scene, looking at blueprints of the building to try to locate Phoenix's character. He stays with Travolta for probably about two minutes of the movie, he said.
When they asked Yant to do this scene with John Travolta, "I said give me two takes, if I mess up bring an actor in," he said. So Yant did it, and was amazed when the director stopped the scene to give Travolta, not him, instructions. "When the director said 'Cut,' he said, 'John I need a little more intensity,'" Yant said. "I was like ooh!"
Yant said it was an eye-opening experience being on the actors' side of the fence after mentoring them for so long, and he got a real taste of what it's like to be in the movie business. After wrapping up on the set he did several interviews for the DVD and other news shows. He was also asked to join the Screen Actors Guild and was offered work on another movie in Chicago. But of the projects proposed to him, he has chosen one: an interview for a children's book.
"You see the money these guys make in Hollywood. It's very alluring but this is what I do," Yant said. "I got my over extended 15 minutes of fame."