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“On Fire” Director Peter Facinelli on ‘Tragedy’ of Wildfires: ‘Things Can Be Replaced, People Can't’ (Exclusive)

The new thriller 'On Fire' is “an in-depth look at how these fires affect individual families,” says director-star Peter Facinelli

<p>Courtesy of Cineverse</p> (Left to right:) Asher Angel, Peter Facinelli and Fiona Dourif in "On Fire"

Courtesy of Cineverse

(Left to right:) Asher Angel, Peter Facinelli and Fiona Dourif in "On Fire"

Peter Facinelli’s new film is more than just an edge-of-your-seat thriller about fleeing a massive wildfire. On Fire serves an important purpose as well, the director-star tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“Every other week, there's some fires in the news,” says the Twilight and Nurse Jackie alum, 49. On Fire (in theaters Sept. 29 and granted an interim agreement by SAG-AFTRA) is “meant to give a detailed look of one family's experience through this. Because a lot of times, you read about it, but you don't get to actually see what they're actually going through.”

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The “harrowing journey” endured by the family at the heart of the film — played by Facinelli, Fiona Dourif, Lance Henriksen and Asher Angel — invites audiences to consider natural disasters in the news from a personal angle.

“You start to get an in-depth look at how these fires affect individual families,” says Facinelli, who co-directed the indie with screenwriter Nick Lyon. (Ron Peer co-wrote the script.)

“They're just this middle-class American family that has bills to pay, they have all these [typical] problems,” he says of On Fire’s characters. “But there's no bigger problem that you can have than when your life is on the line. And then all of those smaller issues go to the wayside and it becomes, ‘How can we survive this?’ ”

He repeats a line of dialogue from the movie that doubles as its central point: “Things can be replaced, but people can't.”

Related: Peter Facinelli and Lily Anne Harrison Welcome First Baby Together: 'Happy Labor Day'

<p>Courtesy of Cineverse</p> Fiona Dourif and Peter Facinelli in "On Fire"

Courtesy of Cineverse

Fiona Dourif and Peter Facinelli in "On Fire"

On Fire serves as a rallying cry to “remember that, to know what’s important,” adds Facinelli. And if the fire prevention techniques the film’s family uses to protect their house educate audiences too, all the better. 

“October is Fire Prevention Month,” he points out. “So that's helpful, too, that this film's coming out at a time when it can give people reminders of what they can do to prevent fires.”

Of course, On Fire was bound to reflect recent real-life news regardless of exactly when it arrived in theaters. The “really heartbreaking” Aug. 8 wildfires of Lahaina, Hawaii are on Facinelli’s mind as he discusses this all-too-relevant story.

Related: Maui Wildfire Death Toll Rises to 106 People: ‘Nothing Can Prepare You for What I Saw’

<p>Courtesy of Cineverse</p> Peter Facinelli in "On Fire"

Courtesy of Cineverse

Peter Facinelli in "On Fire"

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“We've been trying to raise money for the Maui fires,” he says, revealing that he’ll appear on an upcoming episode of Celebrity Jeopardy! His charity of choice: the American Red Cross supporting the Hawaii Wildfire Fund.

Ultimately, Facinelli hopes On Fire is received as more than just entertainment. “There is a message of hope and of giving tribute to those heroes that put their lives on the line. But in the end, you hope that it gives pause, [that audiences] question, ‘What can we do to solve this issue?’ ”

On Fire is in theaters now.

SAG-AFTRA has approved an interim agreement for On Fire since the film is being released by Cineverse, an independent, non-AMPTP affiliated distributor.

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Read the original article on People.