May 4 is International Firefighters’ Day. Established in 1999, the day recognizes every person who serves in emergency services, including hazardous materials specialists, fire prevention specialists, paid firefighters, volunteer fire fighters, heavy equipment operators, emergency service mechanics, emergency medical technicians, and more.
Mississauga’s fire service grew from a scattering of volunteer departments to the professional fire and emergency service we know and rely on today.
Much like our city, Mississauga’s fire service evolved through amalgamation. Its forerunners included the Streetsville Fire Department (founded 1894), Port Credit Fire Department (1919), Cooksville (1936), Malton (1943), Lakeview (1947) and Clarkson & Lorne Park (1951). Each initially relied on volunteer firefighters and focused on their own area and immediate surroundings.
The Toronto Township Fire Department came to be in 1952, organizing and combining the local volunteer companies into a township-wide service (aside from Port Credit and Streetsville, which were independent towns). Since those early days of the fire service, the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services have evolved as the city has grown.
The Mississauga Fire Department was established in 1968, with the Port Credit Fire Department and Streetsville Fire Department becoming part of the Mississauga Fire Department in 1974. In 1975 Mississauga’s fire service became a full-time department and is known today as Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. In 1954 there were five fire stations in Toronto Township. There are now 21 fire stations spread across our city, with over 700 firefighters, emergency, and support personnel.
Without a doubt, one of the most significant milestones for Mississauga’s fire and emergency services came on November 10, 1979, with the Mississauga Train Derailment. CP Train 54 derailed at the Mavis Road level crossing, and was carrying a volatile mix of hazardous materials, including liquid propane, butane and chlorine. The Mississauga Train Derailment came to be called the “Mississauga Miracle” due to no loss of life during the lengthy emergency response.
Recently, the chemical explosion and fire on April 23, 2014, in a warehouse on Thames Gate Drive also posed challenges with unknown substances. A lack of occupational building forms and hazardous material plans meant that little information was available, and the Fire Service effectively went in blind. The unknown aspect resulted in four firefighters being injured. A timely reminder of just how dangerous firefighting can be, and how thankful we are to have a dedicated professional service that place themselves in harm’s way in the execution of their duties.
In addition to dealing with daily emergencies, the fire department is an active community partner, often assisting with community endeavours such as the Mayor’s Food Bank Challenge and visits to local schools. The Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services is involved with their non-profit Benevolent Fund which contributes to community projects. In the past, some of their initiatives included Muscular Dystrophy car washes, Boot Drives, Annual Shamrock Campaign, raffles, and Camp Ignite (a training camp for teen girls). Since it began in 1982 the Benevolent Fund has raised more than three million dollars for local charities.
The Mississauga Fire Emergency Services also take care of their own. It was the first department in Ontario to offer the “Road to Mental Health Readiness” program to supervising officers. The program focuses on stigma around mental health. This enables staff to support the men and women with what is often a very difficult job.
Here’s to recognizing and saying, “thank you” to the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, past and present, on International Firefighters’ Day.
A couple of wonderful resources on the history of Mississauga’s fire services are:
“Yesterday to Today” by the Mississauga Fire Fighters Association Benevolent Fund (1985) and “Their First Alarm” by Captain Robert Kirkpatrick (2020).
Heritage Mississauga has produced several videos available on our YouTube channel that focus on the story of the Mississauga Train Derailment, and prominently feature remembrances from firefighters and emergency personnel: