Mike Doherty, the Midway Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Firefighter of the Year. --Supplied photo

Mike Doherty, the Midway Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Firefighter of the Year. --Supplied photo

‘A good man, among the very best’

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Doherty earns MCC’s Firefighter of the Year Award

By Tim Hadac

Many people who deserve awards are modest, sometimes to the point of being surprised and even a bit befuddled when they receive an accolade.

Mike Doherty is one of them.

The longtime Garfield Ridge resident recalled the day earlier this month when he received a phone call informing him he is the Midway Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Firefighter of the Year.

“I really didn’t believe it, and I kind of asked why,” he said.

The caller listed the reasons why.

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Mike Doherty, the Midway Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Firefighter of the Year. –Supplied photo

“So I said, ‘OK, well thank you, I guess,’” Doherty recalled. “I was still kind of shell-shocked over the whole thing—not thinking I deserved it. I didn’t look for it. It caught me off guard. But it was a nice surprise.”

The caller was MCC board member Al Cacciottolo, who nominated Doherty for the award.

“Giving the award this year was a no-brainer,” Cacciottolo told the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound. “Mike Doherty is an obvious choice. In addition to serving honorably for years in an extremely important and potentially dangerous job, Mike works hard for the neighborhood at so many times and in so many ways. He’s always among the first to volunteer to help with events sponsored by the Chamber.

“But he’s not only a firefighter. He’s a crime fighter,” Cacciottolo continued. “Mike is a founding member of the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch and to this day serves as its vice president, helping make our streets, parks and schoolyards safer.

“He’s solid, straightforward, dependable–a good man, among the very best in Garfield Ridge.”

Doherty accepted the Firefighter of the Year Award at the Chamber’s annual dinner-dance held Friday, Dec. 16 at Mayfield Banquets.

From the neighborhood

He grew up in the Clearing/Garfield Ridge area, attending St. Symphorosa School and then Hale School. He went on to Kennedy High School, where he graduated in 1981.

After that he worked several jobs, most notably as a driver for Battaglia Distributing Co., and then later on the loading docks at the old Dominick’s Finer Foods headquarters in suburban Northlake.

When the Chicago Fire Department administered its exam in 1985, Doherty jumped at the chance. He passed and was added to the list of qualified candidates. He waited 11 years, but never received the call. Then the list was taken down and the next exam was announced.

So he took it again in 1996, and passed again. This time he waited eight years before the call finally came.

He entered the CFD academy in June 2004 and started six months later with Engine 4, at Division and Larabee, in the shadow of the CHA’s Cabrini Green housing projects.

His first day on the job—Dec. 6—was the most eventful of his career.

It was the LaSalle Bank fire in the heart of the financial district downtown. It began at about 6:30 p.m. as an electrical fire on the 29th floor that spread to the 30th. Despite the fire starting after the traditional workday had ended, about 500 workers were still in the 45-story building.

The fire burned for more than five hours and reached temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It ended up being a 5-11 with 3 specials, meaning over a third of the city’s fire department was on scene,” Doherty recalled. About 400 firefighters were there.

Yet there was no loss of life, and the CFD actions were hailed for their effectiveness.

The years since

“I remained on Engine 4 for a total of nine years until my transfer to Engine 18 (at 13th and Blue Island),” Doherty said. “I was assigned to the engine but was asked to drive 221, which is the administrative vehicle for the Deputy District Chief. I have been in this position since that time, having worked with many Chiefs over the years.”

But not only is Doherty a Chicago firefighter, he plays one on TV.

For more than a decade, he has worked as an extra on the award-winning Chicago Fire dramatic series that airs on NBC-TV. Engine 18 is home to the show’s production crews.

It’s in his blood

“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter all my life,” Doherty said, adding that his late father (John A. “Jack” Doherty Sr.) was CFD, as were his uncles, cousins and others he knew. Additionally, his brother-in-law and father-in-law served the department.

As a boy, Doherty would “go to firehouse with my dad to do certain things like pick up his paycheck back in the days before direct deposit.” His father was initially stationed with Engine 95, at Wilcox and Pulaski, in the 1960s. “So I kind of grew up in that [CFD] environment.”

“I do this job because I love it,” he added. Being a Chicago firefighter is “one of the best jobs out there. You know, it’s always tempting to think that maybe someone else has it better, like a doctor or somebody like that.

“But this job, I’ll say this: from where I’m at, from my firehouse, I have a perfect view of downtown. I look at the Willis Tower, and I think 90% of the people working in that building hate going to work. On the other hand, I love setting my alarm to go to work, because I have fun. I work with a great group of men and women. It’s really another family for me.”

Doherty lives in the neighborhood with his wife, Michele. They have three sons: Daniel, Christopher and Nicholas.

The 2022 Firefighter of the Year said he enjoys following in his dad’s footsteps.

“My father was my biggest influence and mentor on pursuing my dreams,” he concluded. “He was always there for me during the rough times to help make my dreams come true.”

9 Comments

  1. Kevin Muth on December 18, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Mike is an extraordinary person. Not only did he come from a family tradition of public service like firefighters and police officers caring for this city, but also taking part with volunteering to care for the neighborhood for which he lives in. It’s neighbors and friends, like myself, who commends Mike for taking his personal time for making Garfield Ridge/ Clearing area a better community to live in. Thanks buddy.



  2. Thomas McGill on December 18, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    Mike is a great guy. Well deserved!



  3. Eileen O’Doherty on December 18, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Congratulations you deserve it!



  4. Joan Philo on December 19, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    Mike is the best!!! We love him on Chicago Fire!



  5. Clarence Norwood on December 19, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    Congratulations Buddy. Well deserved.



  6. Patricia Matysiak on December 19, 2022 at 11:37 pm

    Congratulations, with receiving this prestigious award an accommodation. Chicago Clearing/Garfield Ridge is honored.
    Michele an your Sons are without a doubt PROUD of You in many ways. Keep up your outstanding work and keeping our Neighborhood the BEST of the BEST.
    Stay safe and enjoy a ????????Merry ????Christmas ????????and a safe, healthy New Year.



  7. Charles Maes on December 20, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Congratulations Mike, I also credit your Wife and family who stand beside you, and hard work and dedication are a big part of who you are, so once again congrats ???????????? friend and stay safe out there..



  8. Patricia Matysiak on December 20, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    Job well done Mike, thank you for doing all you do for the Clearing/Garfield Ridge Neighborhood.
    Michele and you Son’s are PROUD of You and your Pop’s probably saying… “That’s my Boy”
    Merry Christmas ????????????????????and hers to a Happy New Year ????????????.



  9. Rocheman on December 20, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    Good job, Brah!



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