Brian Zvonecek is an experienced firefighter but still somewhat low on the totem pole as of the pilot. He finds himself annoyed with the nickname “Otis,” which he was stuck with because his specialty is elevators, and Otis is a well-known elevator company. More important than his nickname or even his area of expertise, however, is the fact that he and fellow firefighter Joe Cruz are best friends — a friendship with ripple effect throughout the show.
Otis becomes a fan favorite over the first seven seasons. Then, in the Season 8 premiere, he dies one of the series’ most emotional deaths from injuries suffered in a mattress factory fire. As Cruz sobs at his friend’s hospital bedside, he tells him, “I know you’re going up to a better place, and I know when you get there, they’re going to welcome you with open arms.” Otis then wakes up for the last time, and his final words, in Russian, are: “Brother, I will be with you always.”
In a later episode, the team dedicates a memorial to Otis that sits just off the firehouse driveway, and it often is seen in the background. Then, in the 10th season, Cruz and his wife honor Otis when the couple welcomes a son into the world, naming him Brian Leon Cruz. The baby’s first name is meant to keep Otis’ memory alive, while the middle name is in honor of Cruz’s younger brother.