"We have one of the best developed CBRN (Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear) response teams," she said. The department also assists police in their public order unit, and offers all types of rescue training such as swift- and ice-water rescue.
"Not every fire department has all those specialties, but we have it all."
The department also has a fire station especially suited for nearby Toronto Island -- with smaller apparatus to get around narrow roads there.
The Toronto Fire Services were created in 1998, when six former city departments merged into one. Higgens said that fire service officials used that time to make sure the department was working as efficiently as it could.
"We did a station and truck location study," she says. "We made a bunch of changes, moving trucks around to provide better coverage."
Since then, the department recently released a plan of action for the next 10 years. Higgens said they have no drastic changes in mind.
Firefighters in Toronto work 24-hour shifts -- at least for now.
Higgens said city firefighters, who were previously working 10 or 14 hour shifts, pushed hard for the 24-hour shifts. But the department is still in a trial period while they collect information on how the shifts affect the health and well-being of firefighters.
"It was supposed to be a one-year trial period ... but it extended to 2007 and we'll make a decision by the end of the year."
Higgens called Ontario firefighters "a fairly happy bunch."
"We do the best we can for them, even though we have a lot of budget restraints."