For all their wizardry, the students of Hogwarts Academy apparently are far less spellbinding than the men of a dingy Chicago firehouse.

In this TV market, at least.

ABC affiliate WJLA/Channel 7 is preempting the network's nationwide 8 p.m. telecast of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second of four movies based on the wildly popular books, for the 14-year-old drama "Backdraft," starring Kurt Russell, Robert De Niro and one of the Baldwin brothers.

Don't tell Lord Voldemort.

ABC's broadcast of "Chamber of Secrets" (its second airing after premiering on the network in May) comes a day after the theatrical release of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," as the network hopes to capitalize on the Potter buzz.

WJLA spokeswoman Kathy McGriff said yesterday that the station chose to run "Backdraft" in prime time tonight because the "window to air it was about to close," as dictated by the contract the station signed with the film's distributor, NBC Universal.

"We were up against a use-or-lose situation," she said.

But all is not lost, J.K. Rowling fans. WJLA says it will telecast "Chamber of Secrets" tomorrow at noon, which the station says is a more kid-friendly time. (True, unless those youngsters happen to be fans of the Redskins, whose game with the Oakland Raiders will air at nearly the same time -- 1 p.m. on WUSA/Channel 9. Then the decision will be: football or Quidditch?)

-- John Maynard

Daniel Radcliffe in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."