Why Did Dora Madison Burge Leave Chicago Fire?

After 10 seasons — and counting — "Chicago Fire" definitely has staying power, even if viewers claim the show gets a lot wrong when it comes to firefighting

Given that longevity, it's not surprising that plenty of actors have come and gone throughout the years. Most notably, stars like Jesse Spencer (Matthew Casey), Steven R. McQueen (Jimmy Borrell), Miranda Rae Mayo (Stella Kidd), Lauren German (Leslie Elizabeth Shay), and Charlie Barnett (Peter Mills) have all left the series due to storyline changes or to pursue other endeavors.

One popular character that has come and gone is Jessica "Chili" Chilton (Dora Madison Burge), who was introduced in Season 3 — only to depart the next year in the middle of Season 4. Many fans were surprised that Chili didn't stick around until at least the end of the season. But, according to then-showrunner Matt Olmstead, it was all part of the drama's plan to keep viewers on their toes.

"You can't just save up the big moments and departures and entrances for characters at episode one and episode 22," he told The Hollywood Reporter

"It almost conditions the audience to be like 'OK, we'll tune in for the first episode and tune in for the finale because not much is going to happen in between because the writers are too timid to make any kind of moves.' So you can threaten people leaving and you can kind of rattle your saber here and there, but unless you follow through on it, no one is going to believe you."

So why was Burge's time on the show so short-lived?

Dora Madison Burge joined the show in Season 3

Dora Madison Burge joined "Chicago Fire" during Season 3, guest-starring as Jessica "Chili" Chilton, who transferred from Chicago's west side to replace Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett) as Ambulance 61's paramedic-in-charge. 

Chili was soon made a recurring character, hanging out at the show's iconic Molly's Bar and even having a brief romance with Steven R. McQueen's Jimmy Borrell, per Distractify. So it looked like Burge would be sticking around for a while. But her character soon faced difficulties in her personal life that impacted her job performance. 

Her twin sister, Alissa "Jellybean" Martin (also played by Burge), was found dead in her apartment, and the pain from the loss caused Chili to start drinking heavily. Although her coworkers tried to get her help, Chili continued to abuse alcohol. As a result, she was fired by Boden (Eamonn Walker). 

"You think you could have helped her out, but she's on this path of self-destruction," then-showrunner Matt Olmstead told The Hollywood Reporter. "It got us some good stuff midway through the season as opposed as to waiting for a finale to have the character exit."

Although Chili's firing was justified, Olmstead said it wasn't easy letting Burge go. "It's hard," he says. "We liked the actress a lot and she did a great job."

She has remained busy since leaving 'Chicago Fire'

Since leaving "Chicago Fire," Dora Madison Burge has remained busy. She appeared in the television series "Into the Dark," "What Would Diplo Do?" and "Dark/Web," as well as the films "Lapsis" and "Alone with You," per IMDb

And she has nothing but fond memories of her time on "Chicago Fire," writing in a since-deleted Instagram post (via Nicki Swift), "I loved playing Chili. She was smart, fun, and ambitious. She was also troubled, traumatized, and struggled with addiction. Not all heroes wear capes, some wear the weight of the world on their shoulders." 

Burge also thanked former showrunner Matt Olmstead "for believing in me and creating such a beautifully layered character."

And, since her "Chicago Fire" character, Jessica "Chili" Chilton, left the show alive, there's always the possibility that Burge could return to Ambulance 61. Although Olmstead told The Hollywood Reporter that there are "no plans for Chili to come back right now," no one knows what the future might hold — especially on a show like this.