Thick, black smoke rising from under the Gardiner Expressway is something most people would avoid at all costs if they were close by. When you’re trained to keep the public safe though, no matter how dangerous the situation may be, you’re heading straight toward it to see what you can do.
Such was the case for GO Transit Safety Officers Arjun Kapadiya and Stephan Fahel during the early morning rush last week. While on their way back to Union Station from patrol, the officers came across what looked like a homeless encampment on fire.
The area was engulfed in flames, with one man struggling to drag his belongings away from the blaze. He was attempting to pull a loaded cart with one hand while holding a sleeping bag around his legs with the other. He was close enough to the fire that the possessions on the back of his cart were starting to burn and melt.
Special Constables Kapadiya and Fahel knew they had to act fast to keep this man from serious harm or even death so, one after the other, they jumped in to pull him from the flames. After freeing him from harm, they realized he was wearing just a sweater and socks on his feet. He was shivering in the cold air and asked if he could sit in their vehicle to warm up. Given the circumstances, they gave him a seat, turned on the heater and provided him with a thermal blanket.
While waiting for emergency services to arrive, Kapadiya pulled out a fire extinguisher but small explosions started going off in the middle of the blaze. At that point, they were told that no one else was there and the explosions were likely from beer cans, paint cans and a small propane tank.
Within minutes, Toronto Fire Services had multiple vehicles on scene and the fire under control, police had blocked traffic on Lakeshore Boulevard and EMS was taking the man into their care for only burns to his feet.
All thanks to a couple of transit safety officers who didn’t limit their life’s work to GO trains and stations. Instead, they reacted when the time was right and did what they needed to do to keep someone safe from harm.