Martin "Marty" Swayzak is the main antagonist in the 1991 film Backdraft.

He was portrayed by the late J.T. Walsh, who had also portrayed Frank Fitzsimmons, Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson and Warren "Red" Barr.


Martin Swayzak is a corrupt, arrogant mayoral candidate who works for Chicago's City Council and hopes to defeat Richard Daley (who was Mayor of Chicago from 1989 to 2011). Swayzak secretly hires three men to create a fake manpower study for the fire department before all three end up getting killed in backdrafts. The three men are Alan Seagrave, Donald Cosgrove and Jeffrey Holcomb. Martin is curious to know whether his henchmen were killed in accidental fires or arson fires (but, he is aware that all three of his henchmen were killed in backdraft explosions). Swayzak is also notorious for making a controversial decision on closing firehouses and converting them into community centers. The main reason he closed the firehouses was to make money for his campaign, which also results in the deaths of many firefighters and that angers the entire department and infuriates the longest serving firefighter (and secondary villain), John "Axe" Adcox. Martin also makes a statement that he has a task force, unfortunately it's later revealed that he has no task force, all he has is a PO Box.

Deleted statement

In a deleted scene, Swayzak states that he cares for the fire department. But of course, that isn't true since he shut down multiple firehouses and made a ton of money off of deceased firefighters.


(Insulting Stephen at the mannequin fire) You know that little glow that's starting to blink in the corner of your eye? That's your career dissipation light. It just went into overtime.
~ Martin Swayzak
When are you gonna catch the prick that's doing this, Don?
~ Martin Swayzak to Donald Rimgale.
Yeah, don't you have any leads at all?
~ Martin Swayzak
Jesus Christ! Open your eyes, you got Seagrave, Cosgrove and now Holcomb.
~ Martin Swayzak
Yeah, you put that together. It's a goddamn list.
~ Martin Swayzak
(Jennifer: Is there something about these deaths that you're not telling me?) No.
~ Martin Swayzak
Now that is quite a bunch of guys!
~ Martin Swayzak
(last lines as he is taken away by the police) I'll have my aides look into them as soon as they possibly can. Thank you!
~ Martin Swayzak

Swayzak's house catches fire

After Brian shows Donald Rimgale (the fire investigator) the fake manpower study. Donald decides to go over to Swayzak's house and confront him. While Brian and Donald are inside Swayzak's house, Donald smells gas and tells Brian to check for gas. Sure enough, it is gas! Brian tries to shut the gas off that is until he gets brutally beaten by a man wearing a ski mask, heavy jacket and holding a flashlight. Brian pushes the man back towards a sparking outlet. The unidentified intruder screams in pain as he is pushed back against the sparking outlet. Swayzak is found unconscious and is bleeding heavily. As Swayzak's catches on fire, Swayzak gets taken out by Brian and Donald. It would later reveal that the intruder who tried to kill Swayzak is John Adcox.

Swayzak exposed

After the funeral was held for Firefighter John Adcox (the firefighter who had a grudge against Swayzak and his henchmen) and Lieutenant Stephen McCaffrey. Brian and Donald have the police help them crash Swayzak's press conference. Donald tells Swayzak that the police would like to know why he hired all three of his henchmen (Seagrave, Cosgrove and Holcomb) to create a fake manpower study and make money off of firefighters dying (including Stephen and John). Brian then tells the disgraced Swayzak, "You see that glow flashing in the corner of your eye? That's your career dissipation light. It just went into high gear!" The press continue to ask questions and Swayzak states, "I'll have my aides look into it as soon as they possibly can. Thank you!" After Swayzak's announcement, a press holder announces, "The Alderman has no further comment at this time. This press conference is now over." And that was the end of Swayzak's hopes and dreams of becoming Mayor.