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Driven by passion to educate and save lives
Making his way through the yellow caution tape, Port Coquitlam fire Capt. Harry Fast approached the scene of the blaze that had engulfed a mobile home in Coquitlam.
Even from a distance, he could see it was severely damaged, as the fire that started in the bedroom from a portable heater had taken over the small home in minutes.
A few steps in and Fast stood where it had all began. On the carpet of the bedroom floor was the outline of a man’s body.
One hand was stretched out, reaching for what had been a phone, now melted plastic.
Despite 23 years with the Port Coquitlam fire department, there was nothing routine about this fire for Fast. This was the scene where his uncle had died.
“I went in with a respirator and I saw the white carpet he had, now black from the fire, and all you could see was the white imprint of where his body was, his outstretched hand and the phone, melted into the carpet,” Fast said, recalling the day in 2007. “I was troubled after that. I thought, maybe I should have been more proactive in making sure he was home-fire safe.”
Following his retirement in 2012, Fast moved to Ocean Park, and in December, the former fire captain self-published Your First Defense For Home Fire Safety – a comprehensive guide that took him a year to complete.
“I just felt compelled to do something. At first, I was thinking of going to homes and providing an assessment, but it would be difficult to reach a large group of people that way. Then I had someone suggest an online business, so I started to scribble away,” Fast said, noting that all profits from the book will be donated to the B.C. Professional Firefighters’ Burn Fund.
One of the things Fast has at the top of his list is getting a smoke detector in every bedroom. On his website, a number of video testimonials detail the importance of early detection in order to survive a fire.
“These are very compelling stories by burn victims,” Fast said. “They all show the need for increased safety.”
At a recent networking event, Fast discovered an opportunity to expand his audience through real estate agent Winston Conyers.
Conyers, who works at Sutton WestCoast Realty in South Surrey, along with his wife and fellow real estate agent, Karen, agreed that the guide would be perfect for those moving into new homes.
“I found out that the company also sponsors the burn fund and met with the owner of the group. So now we’re going to work together towards raising awareness about home fire safety,” Fast said.
The real estate agents plan to begin handing out packages in May containing Fast’s worksheets for clients to use when they move in. The duo will also be sharing the resource with dozens more in their office and company to expand the reach of the service.
“It’s an added service we can provide to ensure our clients are prepared,” Winston said.
For those who purchase a book, a code will be provided allowing users to download the worksheets online to practise fire safety throughout the year.
While Fast admitted he is far busier as a retiree than he anticipated, he doesn’t plan on slowing down.
“I’ve never been so busy or so passionate. I can’t stop. I’m driven,” he said.
To find out more, visit www.firstdefensehomefiresafety.com