First Chicago firefighter to die of COVID-19 laid to rest Monday

It was an emotional last goodbye for a first responder.

A Chicago firefighter who was the first in the department to die of COVID-19 was laid to rest Monday on the Northwest Side, and hundreds came to pay their respects from a safe distance.

Chicago firefighters, Police officers And first responders from dozens of suburban departments formed a two mile procession down Pulaski as the body of 49-year-old Mario Araujo was carried to his final resting place.

“It’s one big brotherhood. It’s one department. It may say Lyons on the car, but we’re all together,” said Gordon Nord of the Lyons Fire Department.

Araujo had been a Chicago firefighter since 2003 and worked out of the Rogers Park firehouse on North Clark.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, only immediate family was allowed in the funeral home.

Tamara Pottridge, whose husband worked with Araujo, watched with her children from across the street.

“Mario used to stay late so my husband could leave for me to go to work in a much less important job. Just a super supportive human being,” Pottridge said.

So far, 91 members of the Chicago Fire Department have tested positive for the coronavirus. The commissioner says they are doing the best they can to enforce social distancing rules under difficult circumstances.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced us to adjust the way we do business. But we will do that. We will survive,” said CFD Commissioner Richard Ford.

Of course fighting fires is dangerous business in the best of times. Now, these firefighters say they are burdened by the worry of keeping their own families safe as well.

“This is our job. This is our career. This is what we love to do is taking care of our communities. And this is just one thing that we’ve got to work through, make sure that we’re protected,” said Patrick Eriksen of the DeKalb Fire Department.