When Chicago Fire debuted in 2012, no one could have dreamed how successful it would be.
That what appeared just a regular emergency drama would not only last a decade but create its own TV universe is remarkable. Even with the various spin-offs, Chicago Fire remains strong in Season 10 and a key reason for that is the cast.
Most have been around since the show began, but it’s not surprising that a series that’s gone so long has shed a few major cast members. Some left on their own choice, while others were written out for dramatic effect. A few had been significant characters since the show’s pilot, while others came and went over the run.
It’s notable how much impact some made with a few characters getting a nice send-off to mark their time on the show. Sadly, a few left under harsh circumstances to show the dangers the firefighters face every day.
These are the most notable exits of the major characters of Chicago Fire since it began and how each departure affected the show yet also proves its popularity.
10. Hallie Thomas
Because it’s been on the air so long, it’s easy for fans to forget some of the characters from Chicago Fire’s first season.
Hallie Thomas was a doctor at Lakeshore Hospital (the precursor to Chicago Med). She was also Casey’s ex-fiancee with the pair maintaining a “friends with benefits” relationship.
The pair broke up because of Hallie not wanting kids yet she and Casey couldn’t quit each other. She was a prominent member for the first half of the season only to vanish for a bit working in South America.
Tragically, just as she and Matt were ready to reconcile, Hallie was caught in a fire at her clinic. Despite Casey’s efforts, she died in the hospital.
It later came out Hallie was killed after discovering one of the doctors was running a drug ring. Hank Voight ended up avenging her by shooting her killer.
Casey would move on but it took a while to shake off this loss.
9. Gianna Mackey
The shortest-reigning of the major characters, Gianna Mackey debuted in Season 9 as Emily Foster’s replacement in the ambulance.
An old friend of Cruz’s, Gianna had a harrowing first day treating a man at gunpoint, culminating in taking a fall off a bridge.
Mackey seemed to question her time at Firehouse 51 but decided to keep up the job and she and Brett got along well. She and Gallo also had a brief relationship.
Surprisingly, Mackey only lasted nine episodes as actress Adriyan Rae chose to leave the show for personal reasons. Gianna was explained as accepting a better position at another firehouse.
It’s a shame her tenure was so short as Gianna had the makings of a fun character to continue to spark Chicago Fire up.
8. Jessica “Chilli” Chilton
Jessica Chilton got off on the wrong foot on her first day and never quite walked the right path.
Introduced in Season 3 to replace the departing Peter Mills, “Chilli” had a hard time making friends but got Hermann’s support.
Sadly, Chilli’s brashness got in her way too much, such as seducing Jimmy in the shower. It got worse when her twin sister died, which drove her to drink. She was soon showing up drunk, which nearly got a patient killed.
When it was clear Chilli was refusing to get help, Boden had no choice but to fire her. She brushed off the rest of the team trying to help but did break down to Severide to check into rehab.
That was the last heard of her, so while it’s hopeful she turned her life around, Chilli’s mistakes drove her off the team.
7. Emily Foster
Emily Foster got to a rough start showing up late for her first day at Firehouse 51. Despite that, the paramedic fell into a good rhythm with Brett to be partners.
Once a medical student, Foster had cheated on her exams yet still had good instincts to help victims. She balanced relationships with both genders and found herself harassed by a one-night stand.
In Season 8, Emily began feeling out of sorts and wanting to do more with her life. She thus decided to re-enroll in medical school, convincing the board she’d learned from her past mistake.
Emily was worried about breaking up the team with Brett, but her friend encouraged her to follow her dreams.
The season 9 premiere related Emily had already been accepted into working at a clinic, so while an on-screen departure didn’t happen, she did get to follow her dreams.
6. Peter Mills
The pilot for Chicago Fire had Peter Mills introduced as the audience surrogate, a rookie fireman meeting everyone else at Firehouse 51. His father had been a fireman who died in the line of duty, giving Peter a lot to measure up to.
Mills had a brief relationship with Gabby Dawson but conflict with Severide’s father, Benny, who insisted Peter’s dad had died because of his own mistakes. He was also upset to learn his mother had an affair with Boden.
While tempted to become a policeman, Mills stayed with the firehouse until an injury on the job. Having lost their business in a fire, his family inherited a restaurant in North Carolina. Deciding that being with them was more important, Mills left the team.
He got a warm send-off with a party, and it was nice that Peter was able to walk away from the job to help his family more.
5. Jimmy Borrelli
It’s hard to have a worst first and last day on the job like Jimmy Borrelli did.
The Season 4 premiere had Jimmy dropped off at Firehouse 51 by his brother, tied and gagged in duct tape and smelling of beer. It’s amazing Boden gave him a second chance.
Jimmy did his best with the team despite a rough attitude and was soon accepted as a promising firefighter. But things took a turn when his firefighter brother died in a collapsing building.
Jimmy blamed Boden for not saving the man, and the tension grew as Jimmy alienated himself from the rest of the squad. It ended up costing him in Season 5 when Jimmy refused to listen to Boden’s warnings about a rescue from a burning car.
The vehicle exploded, badly burning Jimmy and destroying his left eye. While he survived, the injuries ended his career. The last sad sight of Jimmy was bandaged in a hospital bed with only himself to blame for his rough exit.
4. Gabby Dawson
Gabby Dawson went through a lot of changes on Chicago Fire.
Starting off as just a paramedic, Gabby and Lelise bonded as friends and Gabby was affected by Leslie’s death. She also had a good relationship with Casey, culminating in a wedding and adopting a child.
Gabby also worked with policeman brother Antonio and became part owner of Molly’s. She ended up qualifying to become a firefighter herself but decided she was better off working in the ambulance.
In Season 7, Dawson and Casey became more distant after her problems having a child. She eventually headed to Puerto Rico to help people there, making a brief return to try and sway Casey to join her.
The pair remain on good terms as Dawson did make a big impact on the firehouse and so they missed her when she finally left.
3. Matt Casey
It’s still weird to see the backbone of Firehouse 51 since the start of the series is no longer there.
Matt Casey went through a lot on Chicago Fire. From a very troubled childhood to clashes with fellow firefighters, Casey was determined to run the crew as best as he could.
He had his ups and downs, from his complex relationship with Gabby Dawson to running for alderman, but Casey was at home saving lives and helping people.
Casey seemed to be doing well with the crew and his relationship with Brett. But when he learned that a couple of kids he’d saved years ago were in trouble, Casey left for Oregon to foster them.
Everyone has felt his loss, especially Brett, even as Casey maintains a long-term relationship. While it’s sad not seeing Casey around anymore, at least the door is open for his return.
2. Leslie Elizabeth Shay
This was the first huge high-profile exit from Chicago Fire and still one of the biggest deaths.
Leslie Shay was one of the first faces seen in Chicago Fire’s pilot. She’s the subject of a prank where the firefighters get rookie Peter Mills to hit on her before Leslie broke it to him she played for the other team.
Leslie had ups and downs, like her ex-girlfriend entering her life and being affected by a stalker killing himself in front of her. But she still had a lot of spirit and she and Gabby were good friends.
The Season 2 finale had the crew leaving Boden’s wedding to fight a dangerous warehouse fire. An explosion went off and the Season 3 premiere revealed Leslie had been killed in it, with Gabby deeply affected.
It later came out the fire was arson with the firefighters working with the Intelligence Unit to get justice and honor their friend’s memory. Still, the loss of Leslie was a warning to fans anyone could fall in this job.
1. Otis Zvonecek
One of the harshest losses of the team was a man who’d been a backbone of Firehouse 51 since the beginning.
While he could get into some goofy stuff, Brian “Otis” Zvoneck was loved by his fellow firemen for his determination, heart and great humor. He rose up to become an engineer and defeated doubters in his abilities and age.
Otis overcame various injuries, including being shot in the neck in a freak accident. He recovered physically but still had a few psychological scars left. He also had a fun friendly rivalry with Stella.
The Season 8 premiere had Otis among those caught in an explosion. He died in Cruz’s arms, reciting in Russian, “Brother, I will be with you always.”
His loss was so massive that the firehouse put up a special memorial in his name outside the station. Thus, Otis still remains with his brothers even in death.
Chicago Fire Seasons 1-10 streaming on Peacock.