Toronto honours 21 fallen firefighters at ceremony downtown

·4 min read
Toronto firefighters gathered downtown on Sunday to pay respects to 21 fallen firefighters. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC  - image credit)
Toronto firefighters gathered downtown on Sunday to pay respects to 21 fallen firefighters. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC - image credit)

Toronto firefighters paid respects on Sunday to 21 of their own who died in recent years in the line of duty or from illness that was a direct result of their line of work.

The firefighters gathered at Toronto Fire Services Station 334, 339 Queens Quay W. for a ceremony to honour the fallen firefighters. The city will add the names of the 21 to the Memorial Honour Roll, a black granite monument, in HTO Park next to the station.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the addition of the names will be made with "heavy hearts" and the city remembers the professionalism of the fallen firefighters.

"May we never forget their courage, their compassion, nor their service to others in the time of need," he said

Pegg told the crowd that firefighters continue to face hazards and risks daily when they battle fires across the city.

"Today's fires burn hotter and faster than ever before," he said.

"Today's building materials and the contents that we all enjoy in our homes every day produce a dangerous and toxic mix when a fire occurs. Every responding firefighter faces immense challenge and risk at each and every emergency incident," he added.

"In a city as vertical as Toronto, working at a ground level is a reality not often experienced by our firefighters. Our crews commonly work both hundreds of metres in the air or deep underground, adding to the challenges faced daily."

Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC
Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC

Pegg said firefighters also face challenges in terms of mental health and Toronto Fire now has a full-time psychologist on staff to provide support when needed.

Since 1848, a total of 319 firefighters have died in the line of duty while protecting lives, property and the environment in Toronto, the city said in a news release on Friday.

'Selfless, dedicated' people go into danger, mayor says

Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed condolences and thanks to firefighters on behalf of city residents.

"Today, we are here to honour the 21 people whose names are being added to the honour roll, bringing the total to 319. Three hundred and nineteen lives. Three hundred and nineteen heroes," Tory said.

"We often come to take for granted the presence of first responders who answer calls when those of us who are citizens and residents of the City of Toronto are in our most vulnerable hours. And people come and often rush into circumstances other people are rushing away from. And sometimes, whether it's immediately or over time, that results in a sacrifice of a profound nature that we can hardly imagine," he said.

The sacrifice is not only of the people and their lives, but also their families, loved ones and friends, he said.

Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC
Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC

Tory said the city recognizes the courage of firefighters in Toronto, the risks they take and the skills they show to protect people and property. He said firefighters respond 130,000 calls in the city a year, and that includes calls about fires, medical emergencies, natural disasters and hazardous materials.

"I will just say you have huge gratitude from the people of City of Toronto. It takes selfless, dedicated people to go into danger when most people are running the other way. On top of the sacrifice, I also want to make sure that I do acknowledge the sacrifices made by friends and by family," he said.

"I recognize the grief, I recognize the sacrifice, I know the people of City of Toronto do and that is why this day is so important."

Tory said he goes as often as he can to the scene of fires in the city to show support for firefighters and to learn about the complexities of the job.

"I am very proud of our firefighters," he said.

Pegg, Tory, members of Toronto Fire Services, representatives of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation laid wreaths at the monument during the ceremony.

According to the city, the following names, with dates of death, will be added to the Memorial Honour Roll:

  • Acting District Chief Brian G.H. Kirby, Nov. 17, 1991.

  • Captain Gordon W. Crawford, April 30, 2019.

  • Firefighter William B. Gibson, Jan. 30, 2019.

  • Firefighter Edmond F. Lynch, May 15, 2019.

  • District Chief Paul Dzuba, Sept. 12, 2019.

  • District Chief Herbert Hammond, Nov. 3, 2019.

  • District Chief James (Jim) Ritchie, Nov. 24, 2019.

  • District Chief Karl Dieter Bertram, Dec. 20, 2019.

  • Captain Gregory A. Simerson, June 26, 2019.

  • District Chief Wayne Elford, Jan. 16, 2020.

  • Firefighter Roger Martin, Feb. 21, 2020.

  • Captain Victor Patrick Kelly, April 25, 2020.

  • Firefighter Glenn Grieve, May 4, 2020.

  • Firefighter James Duffney, June 19, 2020.

  • Captain Gary Campbell, Aug. 11, 2020.

  • Firefighter Robert A. Chalmers, Nov. 4, 2020.

  • Acting Platoon Chief Glenn Sherwood, Feb. 20, 2021.

  • Captain Johnnie Walker, June 14, 2021.

  • Captain Daniel Thompson, Aug. 11, 2021.

  • Captain Martin Costoff, Aug. 17, 2021.

  • Firefighter Ted J. Szabunia, May 2, 2022.

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