Thanks to extensive news coverage following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we're more aware of the daily heroism of America's rescue workers than ever. Firefighters, who usually take a backseat to police exploits on TV, are especially high-profile right now, and deservedly so. Enter a new syndicated reality series, The Bravest (check local listings) — think Cops, but with ride-alongs in fire engines instead of patrol cars.

That the show's premise is timely — perhaps too timely — isn't lost on its nervous producers. Creator Russell Best points out to TV Guide Online that The Bravest has been in the works for more than a year. Adds producer Tammy Leech: "We set out to honor firefighters prior to this tragedy. So we didn't want to come out of the box and have people think we were trying to benefit from this."

"If anything comes of this, it's that people finally understand how brave firefighters are," Best says. "We don't know about it unless it's a big headline, but they are warriors for this country every single day."

While other TV and film honchos are rushing to excise any images of the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center from their products, The Bravest's makers are retooling the series's early episodes to do precisely the opposite. Insists Best: "After the attack on the WTC, the number of losses — civilians and firefighters — was so significant and horrific that we didn't feel comfortable going forward without recognizing that somehow." He adds that good taste will be observed in their coverage of New York firefighters' current woes: "Our staff is so dedicated to preserving the integrity and honor of these people, whether they're missing or still on the job."

Leech says they'll acknowledge the tragedy in this weekend's debut, "dedicating this show and the entire series to the firefighters and their families. Then, probably a week from now, we'll do a tribute to the fallen firefighters once it's been confirmed who's lost. Right now, it wouldn't be right to do a tribute and take away any hope the families may still have."