Firetruck stolen in Toronto, leads police on high-speed chase

TORONTO — A man stole a Toronto fire department truck Monday, turned on the flashing lights and siren, and led police on a wild chase into the countryside.

"I can't ever remember a fire truck being stolen before," said Sean Pearce, an executive officer with the Toronto fire department.

"We run about 300,000 calls each year. It just doesn't happen. This is a real oddball for us."

The pumper truck was taken while it was parked in a strip mall in north Toronto. The driver somehow overcame the vehicle's keyless ignition system, then sped off.

Minutes after the theft, four firefighters came out of the mall to find their ride gone and police were called.

Toronto officers lost sight of the large bright red truck but officers in York, north of the city, spotted it and took up the pursuit.

"It went through a number of red lights and struck two cars," said Toronto police Det. Larry Rebellato.

During the chase, the vehicle hit speeds of between 90 to 100 kilometres an hour with the driver nearly losing control several times after hitting speed bumps, police said.

Officers took a man into custody moments after witnesses reported seeing someone ditching a fire truck on the side of the road.

Police said he was caught trying to steal another vehicle several hundred metres from where the fire truck was left tilting precariously into the ditch.

How the truck was started and why the four firefighters weren't with the vehicle remains under investigation.

Fire trucks don't start with a key. Instead, the driver must engage a series of buttons in a specific sequence and the buttons are in a secure location, Pearce said.

The four firefighters assigned to the pumper have some answering to do, he added.

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