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Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg announces retirement after 32 years of active service

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg announced on Friday that he plans to retire officially in October after more than three decades of active service.

Pegg, who has been fire chief since 2016, said in a letter in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that he told his command team on Friday morning of his intentions to step down. His last day on the job will be Oct. 4, 2024.

“I am deeply appreciative to be able to retire healthy, after more than 32 years of active service as a firefighter, eight as chief,” he said in the letter.

“There has not been a single day when I have not been immensely proud to wear the Toronto Fire Services uniform, and to serve alongside this incredible team of 3,265 professionals.”

Pegg played a major role in Toronto’s response to the pandemic, serving as the city’s COVID-19 incident commander for 25 months, from March 2020 until April 2022.

He appeared alongside John Tory, mayor at the time, and Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, at news conferences that updated the city on the status of COVID-19. From 2018 to 2022, Pegg was also general manager of the city’s Emergency Management.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg updates the media at the scene of a house explosion that caused a 3 alarm fire in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is pictured here updating the media at the scene of a house explosion that caused a fire in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

As fire chief, Pegg has been on the scene of some of the city’s largest fires, delivering tough news and messages. 

For example, after a fire at a Toronto shelter hotel on Wilson Avenue near Jane Street on Nov. 27, 2023, Pegg told reporters: “Unfortunately, we have received confirmation that that occupant has been pronounced dead. On behalf of all of us, I extend my deepest condolences to family, the friends and everyone impacted by this tragic, fatal fire.” 

Pegg would also tell the public periodically about the need for smoke alarms and the need to test those smoke alarms.

In 2017, Pegg spoke to CBC Toronto about an incident that shaped him early on as a firefighter: rescuing a little girl, who didn’t make it.

“As a young firefighter in 1992, I was involved in the rescue of a small child from a home in Keswick. I actually rescued her from her bed. We worked on her, and the paramedic crews and doctors did everything they could do for her, but unfortunately, she succumbed to her injuries three days later. That profoundly affected me. Prior to that incident, this job was a bit of an adrenaline rush…It fundamentally changed the way that I view it, and that’s something that 25 years later I still carry.”

Pegg would speak about the personal impact of the job years later, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a pandemic update on Jan. 25, 2022, Pegg went public with a personal message about mental health. He told reporters about his check-ins in an attempt to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment.

“I want you to know that I feel absolutely no shame, no embarrassment and no fear in being open about the fact that I work with a psychologist who helps me remain mentally healthy, strong and resilient,” Pegg said.

“There is nothing weak about seeking help to maintain your mental health. In fact, from my perspective, this is one of the true indicators of strength.”

Mayor John Tory and chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa hold a COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 4, 2020. Employers will be required to report cases of COVID-19 as soon as they are made aware of two or more employees having contracted the virus.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg speaks at a COVID-19 briefing in Toronto on Jan. 4, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In the letter on Friday, Pegg said it has been an “extraordinary privilege” to serve as fire chief and to bring change to the fire department.

“When I became Fire Chief in 2016, we embarked on a journey of transformation together. Today, the City of Toronto is the largest city in North America with an internationally accredited fire service under the Commission on Fire Accreditation International,” the letter reads.

“Together, we build a data-informed, people focused team of professionals who are committed to protecting and improving public safety in Canada’s largest and most complex city; we have worked together to create an increasingly inclusive, welcoming and supportive workplace that better reflects the communities that we serve.”

Pegg said he will share additional thoughts and reflections later.

New Toronto Fire Services chief Matthew Pegg stepped into the job last week, just a day after all eyes in Toronto were on a Toronto Fire led rescue of a young woman who was stuck on the pulley of a crane.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is pictured here in 2017. On Friday, he said: ‘I am deeply appreciative to be able to retire healthy, after more than 32 years of active service as a firefighter, eight as chief.’ (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow thanked Pegg for his public service in a post on X on Friday.

“It has been an honour to work alongside you. Thank you for your leadership. We are all grateful for your years of service in keeping Toronto safe,” Chow said.

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