By Breanne L. Heldman
September 28, 2017 at 03:38 PM EDT
Fall TV
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It’s been an exceptionally long summer for Chicago Fire fans, but fall is finally here. Thursday night’s season 6 premiere will pick up right where that devastating spring cliffhanger left off — with several characters in serious peril in the middle of a massive warehouse fire.

That’s right, we’ll finally know for sure if Casey’s (Jesse Spencer) weeper of a “you’re my miracle” speech to Gabby (Monica Raymund) was a true goodbye and if Mouch (Christian Stolte) is really retiring… or retired for good.

And here to tease us all about it is executive producer Derek Haas… (And, once you’ve watched the episode, click here for more from Haas on how the cliffhanger cookie crumbled.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Dude, I have been on edge all summer since that finale. Which I suppose was the point, right?
DEREK HAAS: We do love to leave you in suspense. It had been since the second season where we had had a call end the season. We’re always looking for a good cliffhanger and it seemed like we were at the right time to do it. It had been a few years. But yeah, putting everyone into a burning building is one way to ratchet up the fear factor.

How’s that going to work out now?
We are going to pick up the season just one second past where we cut off at the end of season 5. You’re going to see the aftermath of what happened and then… we’re going to have a time cut after the events of this, which we’ve done before in the past, and flash about two months past the events of that and pick it up from there.

Are we going to see a departure?
Well, there’s definitely a character not coming back, but I won’t say why.

Well, Mouch claimed to have retired, so that’s a possibility, right?
That’s an option. You can run down your list of all sorts of things that possibly could happen. I’m always looking to see what gets posted online… but some viewers, some fans had seen some of our characters wearing their dress blue uniforms and figured, “Oh, the times when we see these dress blue uniforms are when Shay died or Shay’s thing,” so everybody’s a little up in arms at me right now. All I can tell you is it’s going to be exciting.

Why the time jump?
We didn’t want to do a season 6 start that would be essentially the last episode of season 5. We want to get on with what’s happening in season 6, and, as you know, in my opinion, what makes our show even more fun is you have these characters Herrmann and Otis and Cruz that are sort of the backbone of the firehouse who are up to hijinks, and 601 will be no exception.

So we’ll get hijinks in this premiere?
There will be some fun to be had in the first episode. It’s not going to be a full episode of dourness.

How is Boden handling the aftermath of that finale call?
We love the woman who plays his wife, Melissa Ponzio, and so we were looking to inject her more into the first part of season 6. We’re going to be doing a lot of looking at families and families outside the firehouse and how they affect the firehouse. So Donna is going to figure prominently in the first couple of episodes. If you remember, she is a schoolteacher, but she has moved from fourth grade up to a public high school in Chicago and in that first episode, there’s going to be a fire at her high school. Which, as you can imagine, puts Boden into a frenzy because she’s in imminent danger. So you get to see Boden in action. He’s not going to stand outside and be an incident commander when his wife’s in danger.

You said you’ll be looking at families more this season — care to explain?
We’ve said you’ve got your firehouse family and you’ve got your family outside and how those affect each other, but we’re really going to delve into that this year of your off-the-clock family and how that affects your job once you clock in and the bells go off. We’re going to be seeing more characters coming out of family members’ lives, some that we’ve seen before, some that we’ll meet for the first time, but getting a little bit more outside of the firehouse, but only in so much as it affects us on shift.

I’m guessing that means more of Gabby’s father. Who else?
We’re definitely going to see more of Dawson’s dad in the first batch of episodes. There’s a chance for Cruz’s brother Leon to show his face back in Chicago… Donna, Cindy. We might at some point [see Casey’s family members again], hopefully not at a funeral.

Any new love interests coming our way?
We’re going to have a brand new character, a disrupter, is going to be coming from Fowlerton, Indiana, where Brett is from, her hometown. And Hope (Eloise Mumford) is a very cute, fun, small-town girl who is a little bright lights, big city coming to Chicago and decides she really likes what Brett has going on and looks to gain favor amongst our firefighters. She’s going to be a romantic interest to Severide starting off, and you’re also going to have Stella Kidd and Severide we’re going to play — they’ve sort of been off again, on again, off again, and we’ll definitely flirt with that through this season.

RELATED: A new love interest could change the future of Molly’s on Chicago Fire

Are we going to see Brett rekindle things at all with Dawson?
That would be a big spoiler, but let me say not right off the bat, but there’s a place for it in the first half of the season because of Antonio coming back — thank god we got him back on Chicago P.D. — and I always liked the Brettonio. They have great chemistry and they’re good people. They’re actually good people beyond just being actors whose characters are good people and I think that shows and they had some real chemistry. So yes, I would like to see them rekindle, even if it’s ill-fated.

Chicago Fire season 6 premieres Sept. 28 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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