York PhD student becomes first female Chief of Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service


Photo of Vaughan Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi

Deryn Rizzi, MDEM, Vaughan Fire Chief

York grad and PhD student Deryn Rizzi has been appointed as the new Chief of Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS), the first woman in the role.

Rizzi is currently pursuing her PhD in Gender, Feminist and Women's Studies. She is a graduate of York's Master of Disaster and Emergency Management program, and has also taught the third-year course Comprehensive Emergency Management at York.

Rizzi spoke to Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning to discuss her new role, and was asked if fire chief was a job she had always wanted.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “I entered the fire service and my big desire was to learn how to drive a fire truck. I didn’t even imagine that I would ever make it to a captain when I first started. So, this whole progression was not predicted. I always looked for a new opportunity, different challenges and it just moved me forward.”

Rizzi acknowledges that being the first female fire chief in Vaughan is an opportunity to become a role model “not only to females, but to males,” she said. She spoke of how she rose through the ranks of fire service quite quickly, putting her in the public eye.

“There was a lot on me knowing that there were people watching,” said Rizzi. “I obviously wanted to succeed because I believe in my professional reputation. But, also for my fire chief who believed in me. I wanted to make sure that he felt at the end of the day like he made the right decision.”

At the end of the interview, Galloway asks Rizzi what she loves most about her job.

“What I love the most about my job as a firefighter is that we’re able to help people on a daily basis,” she said. “Although our firefighters come in and there’s a high chance that they’ll see something incredibly terrible, there’s also a high probability that they come in and positively impact someone’s life. That’s an incredible feeling to be able to go home every day and understand that you have that opportunity.”

Learn more about Chief Rizzi on the Vaughan website, in the Toronto Star and listen to the full interview on CBC.