"Chicago Fire," Jesse Spencer
Credit: NBC/Courtesy Everett Collectio

As one of the original firefighters at Firehouse 51, the One Chicago franchise has been missing Captain Casey since his exit in season 10. But why did Matthew Casey leave Chicago Fire in the first place and what happened to Jesse Spencer’s character?

Chicago Fire is NBC’s drama series following the professional and personal lives of firefighters, rescue personnel and paramedics of the Chicago Fire Department’s fictional Firehouse 51. Spencer made his debut as Captain Matthew Casey, a lieutenant (then captain) at Firehouse 51 and an officer in charge of Truck Company 81, in season 1 of Chicago Fire in 2012.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in October 2012, Spencer explained he was “hesitant” to join Chicago Fire after starring as Dr. Robert Chase on FOX’s medical drama, House, for eight seasons. “I was a bit hesitant at the start but the other cast was great and Taylor [Kinney who plays Kelly Severide] is great,” Spencer said. “I met him at the audition, and we got along great. And the writers are awesome. Also, the odds of something going 10 years is actually really slim. But it was a bit scary because I guess it could. If it does, it’s a huge success, which is not a bad thing either. We’re taking it one day at a time. We’ve got to get past the first season and the first 10 episodes before we have to start being concerned about it going for 10 years.”

So why did Matthew Casey leave Chicago Fire and what happened to Jesse Spencer’s character? Read on for what we know about why Matthew Casey left Chicago Fire and if he could return for good.

Why did Matthew Casey leave Chicago Fire?

Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey in Chicago Fire

Why did Matthew Casey leave Chicago Fire? Spencer announced he was leaving Chicago Fire after almost 10 seasons as Captain Matthew Casey in October 2021. “I added it up, and this year is my 18th year of network TV, straight — I went straight from House into Chicago Fire,” Spencer said on a press call at the time. “Coming up to the 200th, I called [showrunner Derek Haas] and broke him the news that I thought it was time to leave the show. He agreed we should at least get Casey to 200 episodes. “It was a difficult decision because I’ve loved this show from the start, but there’s other things that I would love to do in the future and there’s some family that I need to take care of. 18 years is a long time. That’s a long stretch.” He continued, “It was a difficult decision, and I hate to leave the show because I do love it, but when the time comes, the time comes.”

Haas told reporters that he “of course wanted to talk Jesse into staying” but was thankful that Spencer agreed to at least film the first five episodes of Chicago Fire season 10 to give Casey a proper goodbye. “That let us bring back a storyline from season one that I know Jesse was excited about when we pitched it to him, to bring back the Darden boys and really tie in the pilot to Jesse’s leaving,” Haas said.

So why did Jesse Spencer leave Chicago Fire? Spencer explained on the press call in 2021 that he left Chicago Fire to spend more time with his family. “As a lead, you don’t want to leave a show. But I wanted to leave the show. It was time for me,” Spencer said, calling his exit “bitter sweet.” “It was OK [saying goodbye] because there is the potential for me to come back. I still am in Chicago right now. I’m not running off to Los Angeles or anything although I might escape for a little bit for the winter. … My home here with my wife is in Chicago, and I’m still going to be here, I’m just stepping back for right now.”

He continued, “It’s been an amazing run. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’ll miss it. I’m stepping away but I’ll be back.”

What happened to Matthew Casey on Chicago Fire?

Chicago Fire, Jesse Spencer

What happened to Matthew Casey on Chicago Fire? Casey’s last episode as a series regular on Chicago Fire was season 10, episode 5, “Two Hundred,” which was also the show’s 200th episode overall. The episode sees Spencer leave Firehouse 51 and move to Oregon after he’s contacted by Griffin Darden, the son of a firefighter killed in Chicago Fire‘s pilot to asks for help for him and his brother.

Casey, who had become a father figure to the brothers after their dad’s death, decides to move to Oregon to become the boys’ legal guardian to prevent them from being separated and sent to foster care. The episode also sees Casey and his love interest, paramedic Sylvie Brett (played by Kara Kilmer), agree to try to make their relationship work long distance. “We’ve been establishing this relationship for three years and we finally just got there. Casey’s leaving and going to Oregon for the right reasons,” Spencer said on the press call in 2021. “There is the chance that I will come back. We’re toying with, ‘Will Casey come back?’ … That’s a possibility for me too.”

Casey returned to Chicago Fire in season 10, episode 22, “The Magnificent City of Chicago,” in which he attends the wedding of his best friend Lieutenant Kelly Severide and Stella Kidd. Casey also returned to Chicago Fire in season 11, episode 18, “Danger Is All Around,” in which he works with the Department of Homeland Security to investigate a case. “Casey gets involved with the Department of Homeland Security in Oregon because there have been potential domestic terror attacks across the United States, something he discovers after finding evidence of where future attacks could take place,” Jesse Spencer told Deadline in April 2023 of the episode. “So he gets involved with the FBI, the DHS, and becomes a special liaison for first responders in case these attacks do come to fruition. That’s why he goes to Chicago, to brief first responders to hopefully be able to prevent one or stop one in progress. It’s a pretty serious mission for Casey. He’s had a lot of serious missions before but this one concerns national security. He still considers Chicago home so, he has a special interest in coming back and picking his liaison there.”

Spencer also explained that the episode was a way to update viewers on Casey’s relationship with his wife, paramedic Sylvie Brett. “He’s also back because he wants to see everyone at Firehouse 51, and obviously, catch up with Brett, see if she’s single or not. He’s not told her he’s coming so it’s a bit of a shock to her but they get talking and he finds out that she’s dating someone. But he’s in Oregon, of course, but it feels like his time there is coming to an end. The Darden boys are getting older, doing really well, and are moving on. It feels like he’s there to sniff around Chicago and his old flame and maybe rekindle that fire.”

Spencer also told TV Line at the time about Casey and Brett’s less-than-romantic reunion. “I think in his head, he thought there would be a different reaction… He thought her reaction would have been a little warmer, but it’s not good because they didn’t end on good terms. I think it’s a classic guy move. I think he thought she would be happy to see him,” Spencer said.

Is Matthew Casey returning to Chicago Fire for good?

"Chicago Fire," Jesse Spencer

Is Matthew Casey returning to Chicago Fire for good? In an interview with Deadline in April 2023, Jesse Spencer revealed that he was “open” to coming back as Casey “full-time.” “I cannot… answer that question,” Spencer said. “The potential to come back would be awesome. I’m always open to that but you know, the ball isn’t really in my court. I always told Derek Haas that if there were episodes that he thought would be appropriate for me to come back, then I’m totally open to that because I want to see the old gang and I love working there. But in terms of me coming back full time or something, I have no idea.”

Spencer also told TV Line at the time that one thing that he did not miss “not even one little bit” about returning to Chicago Fire was wearing Casey’s heavy firefighter gear. “I knew exactly where everything was and my equipment. It wasn’t like getting dressed for the first time. But man, I didn’t miss the weight of that equipment and taking it on and off 30 times. I was like, ‘Oh, I forgot about this. I don’t do this anymore,’” Spencer said.

Spencer also hinted to TV Line that Casey could return to Chicago Fire (and reunite with Brett) based on the storyline that originally made him leave in the first place. “It feels like [Casey’s] time in Oregon could be wrapping up at some point in the future because the kids, Griffin and Ben Darden, that he’s been looking after… they’re getting into schools and [his] whole reason for being there might be wrapping up, coming to an end,” he said.

He continued, “So I think he’s come back to sense where Brett is at, which is almost a little bit mean since they’ve already moved on,” the actor continues with a laugh. “But he’s doing it genuinely. But as we all know, with old flames returning, it can bring up a lot of different feelings. Can you restoke the flame that you once had? Can you make it work again? Or is it too back and forth? Is it over?”

Despite their relationship issues, Spencer told TV Line that he didn’t believe Casey regretted leaving Brett to take care of the Griffin and Ben. “I don’t think he regrets it, because he’s that guy that’s always put everyone else first,” Spencer said. “I think his own relationships have sort of always come second to his oath as a firefighter and a first responder. Those people, their work lives can be tremendous, and their home lives can be not so good, which is a little bit tragic. But maybe one day he can come and and make it work, because he obviously still has feelings for this girl. They didn’t break up because they fell out of love. He had to go and help his best friend’s children. So it’s a very noble cause, but it still creates drama in his personal life.”

Chicago Fire airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

For more about Jesse Spencer, check out our photo gallery of Chicago Fire stars and their real-life loves