6 Toronto firefighters, 1 Mississauga firefighter, 1 Oakville firefighter test positive for COVID-19


Six Toronto firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last two weeks, a union representative has confirmed.

Toronto Professional Firefighters Association Frank Ramagnano confirmed the tally to CTV News Toronto on Sunday.

Ramagnano said the cases are at multiple fire stations. At least two cases were spread from one firefighter to another, he said.

“You know one of our strengths is that we’ve worked so closely together, but with this virus, it has now become one of our weaknesses,” Ramagnano said.

He said the virus has made them readjust their behaviour and reevaluate how they operate in fire stations. Ramagnano said social distancing at fire stations has been challenging to do.

“The best thing you can do for emergency services — fire, police and EMS — is to keep your distance and try to cooperate as much as possible,” he said.

Ramagnano said firefighters share the same fear of the virus as everyone else.

“They’re not superheroes.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, firefighters have cancelled vacations and less have booked off sick so that stations are well-staffed, Ramagnano said.

“They’re doing everything in their power to come to work because they know how important it is,” he said.

More than 200 Toronto Fire Services members are in self-isolation, the union said.

In a statement, Acting Toronto Fire Chief Jin Kay said the cases would not have any impact in their ability to respond to emergencies. He said all frontline staff are highly trained and equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment.

News of the positive tests comes hours after officials with the Mississauga and Oakville fire departments confirmed that they also have members who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett said that one of his firefighters recently tested positive for the virus and is doing “well” despite the diagnosis.

Oakville Fire Chief Brian Durdin also released statement on Sunday regarding a firefighter in his department who had tested positive. He said that individual last worked a shift on March 19 and then began exhibiting symptoms on March 25.

“The health and safety of all of our employees during this pandemic is our top priority. Internally we have had the fire hall and truck where the staff member last worked prior to the onset of symptoms deep cleaned as an extra precaution,” he wrote. “The affected staff member’s crew will continue to self-monitor as per protocols recommend by the Halton Health Unit.”

As a precaution, Beckett said that a number of employees who had direct contact with the firefighter have been instructed to self-isolate at home by public health officials.

He said that the fire station where the employee was based has also been closed for a thorough cleaning.

Sources have told CP24 that the fire station in question is fire station #116 near Tomken and Derry roads.

“We are still in the deep cleaning process (at the station) but we are able to respond with the crew (that was stationed there) from other locations,” Beckett said. “Fire operations remain normal.”

Beckett said that enhanced cleaning protocols have already put into place for fire stations and fire vehicles amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that there is also a screening process in place at fire station to ensure employees are not reporting to work while exhibiting symptoms.