Fire chief during 1979 train derailment in Mississauga to be honoured at memorial service

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Published September 19, 2023 at 11:46 am

Former Mississauga fire chief Gord Bentley. (Photo: Turner & Porter Funeral Home)

The man who served as Mississauga’s fire chief during the historic 1979 train derailment will be honoured at an upcoming memorial service.

Gord Bentley, who died on July 28 at age 93, was new to the job as the city’s top fire official in late 1979 when a train carrying dangerous chemicals left the tracks at the Mavis Road crossing several blocks north of Dundas Street West just before midnight on Nov. 10 and exploded.

In what became widely known as the Mississauga Miracle due to no deaths being caused by the derailment and subsequent massive explosions, more than 200,000 of the city’s 294,000 residents were forced to leave their homes for up to several days and in some cases a full week in what was, at the time, the largest peacetime evacuation in North American history.

And helping Mississauga’s new mayor at the time, Hazel McCallion, navigate the derailment, which made daily international headlines, was Bentley.

Mississauga Ward 11 Councillor Brad Butt told colleagues and others in attendance at last week’s city council meeting that a memorial service for Bentley, a longtime Streetsville resident, will be held this coming Saturday.

The service will be held on Sept. 23 at Streetsville United Church, starting at 1 p.m.

“I’m sure it’s open to everyone and our fire and emergency services (members) will be well represented there,” said Butt.

Bentley joined what was then the Streetsville Fire Department when he was 18, and eventually became deputy chief of that organization in 1959.

Upon the town’s amalgamation into the City of Mississauga in 1974, he joined the Mississauga Fire Department and became fire chief in 1979, retiring from the post in 1992.

In addition to his lengthy firefighting career, Bentley also ran several small businesses, including Bentley Hardware in Streetsville, and was active in the community and his church over the years.

He also helped found the popular Streetsville Bread & Honey Festival.

The Mississauga train derailment took place in late 1979, shortly after Gord Bentley became Mississauga’s fire chief.

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