The Chicago Fire Department is mourning a firefighter who died after testing positive for COVID-19 as it continues to grapple with the new reality of protecting the public during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mario Araujo, 49, died Tuesday due to complications from the virus, CFD spokesman Larry Langford said.
Colleagues remember Araujo as a dedicated veteran of the department.
“Mario was a fireman on Truck 25 for 19 years, assigned here in Rogers Park his entire career," CFD Deputy District Chief Brian McKermitt said. "He cared about this area, he was helpful and dedicated."
"It’s a really tough loss," McKermitt added. "We’re like a big family. We’re not taking it well."
Araujo was single and survived by his mother, officials said. He fell ill at the end of March, officials said. Another firefighter from Truck 25 who worked on the first shift with Araujo also tested positive for coronavirus and was recovering at home under close monitoring, the deputy chief said.
The loss of Araujo came at an already terrifying time when firefighters across the city are navigating their essential work through the outbreak.
“As I watch the guys gear up now, I’m scared for them, because there’s nothing I can do. I can’t say 'Put the ladder here, put the hose here,'" Battalion 9 Chief James O’Donnell said. "I mean, they are walking into this environment that is invisible. So as bosses, as the captain here, it’s a horrible feeling. It’s the unknown that’s scary.”
The Chicago Police Department - who lost an officer to the coronavirus last week - tweeted Wednesday, "To our brothers and sisters in the Chicago Fire Dept: our support of you is unwavering as you grieve."
Illinois' total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose above 13,500 Tuesday as the state saw its biggest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. In addition to 1,287 new cases, 73 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of state fatalities to 380.