Father and son reject hero label after fire rescue

Tom Jopling and son Nairn 'just did what was right'

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services recognized the life-saving efforts of a Vancouver father and son at a ceremony at No. 1 Firehall on Heatley Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

Tom Jopling, his 16-year-old son Nairn and two of Nairn's friends were walking along Boundary Road to a rugby match at Swangard Stadium June 23 when a woman alerted them to a house fire.

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They saw smoke and ran to the front door of the home at Boundary and 45th Avenue. No one answered when they pounded on it, so they hopped the fence to the backyard.

Small shoes at the back door, which opened to a kitchen, raised fears kids might be inside.

Nairn and his friends started kicking in the door, while his father checked windows and another door at the back.

"I kicked the door in and then ran in right to the end of the kitchen. Then, at that point, I realized I couldn't go any farther, so I ran back out," recalled Nairn, a student in the Vancouver School Board's Take a Hike program.

The noise Nairn made awoke teenager Tiffany Tra, who was asleep in her main floor bedroom. The room looks out into the backyard and is about 10 feet above ground.

The 16-year-old Killarney secondary student remembers hearing yelling, but didn't know what was going on. She opened her bedroom door, but it was black and smoky, forcing her to retreat into her bedroom.

Tra went to her window and saw Tom Jopling.

Jopling told her to knock out the screen and escape through the window. She dropped down into his arms.

Fire chief John McKearney called the Joplings' response an "exemplary act of bravery" and one that reinforces the message that keeping the community safe is about action when the need arises.

"They acted without hesitation, recognizing that somebody might be in grave danger and that was the case-Tiffany was inside," McKearney said.

Tom Jopling rejects the suggestion he and his son are heroes. "We're not heroes. We were just in the right place at the right time and anybody seeing what we did would respond in the same way," said the instructor in the school of business in BCIT's marketing department.

"There are heroes in this world and it's not us. We just did what was right."

But Jopling praises his son for recognizing the urgency of the situation.

"He put his everything into getting that door down," Jopling said. "And then to go into the house after that-the smoke built very quickly in the house. It was a lesson to both of us how quickly a house fire can go from smoldering- a bit of smoke-to, in a matter of minutes, it's just choking and there's not much you can do without equipment. So for Nairn to go in like that, I couldn't be more proud."

Nairn also rejects the hero label.

"I was just thinking about a little kid being in that house and I just wanted to do all I could do to get them out," he said.

Tra teared up when asked how she feels about the

Joplings.

"I just don't really have words to describe how grateful I am. But I'm extremely grateful they were there at the time," she said.

Her father, Tony Tra, who'd only left the house shortly before the fire started, also expressed his gratitude.

"I can't thank them enough for what they did. For me, and my family, they are my heroes. It doesn't matter what they say. To me they are heroes," he said.

The fire department said the fire was sparked by an electrical problem and caused about $190,000 in damage.

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Naoibh

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