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Firefighter remembered as modern-day knight

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Firefighter remembered as modern-day knight

It wasn't the way Bob Leek died - rushing to the scene of a massive propane explosion - that made him a hero, the fallen firefighter's grieving brother said Friday.

August 16, 2008
By The Canadian Press

It was the way he lived his life, fearlessly coming to the aid of others even in the most dangerous situations, he said.

The
Toronto firefighter was a "modern-day knight," a man whose devotion to
his family was only surpassed by his dogged determination to help
others, Jim Leek told thousands of mourners who gathered at a prayer
hall to remember his brother.

"He was a man of integrity and honour … a modern-day knight," he said.

"I think being a family man is what drew him toward the Toronto Fire Services, the brotherhood that he truly believed in."

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Bob
Leek, 55, perished Sunday at the scene of the propane depot fire, which
set off a series of earth-shaking explosions that forced thousands of
residents to flee their homes. The cause of death hasn't been released
at the request of his family.

The notes of a bagpiper's skirl
hung heavy as Leek's flag-draped casket was carried atop a pumper truck
festooned with black fabric, as hundreds of officers followed the
procession towards the cavernous Prayer Palace.

Overhead, an
enormous Canadian flag fluttered in the flawless blue sky, suspended
from the ladders of two firetrucks that flanked the entrance.

Inside
the hall, a sea of blue uniforms and white gloves packed the pews as
Leek was remembered as a loving father and husband who was passionate
about protecting the community he served.

Public Safety Minister
Stockwell Day and Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley were among the
dignitaries who attended the two-hour funeral.

A self-described
"tech geek," Leek spent hours in the family basement as a child,
tinkering with his latest invention, his brother said.

"If you
were to give him a scrambled egg and enough time, he would put it back
together, give you a flow chart and the step-by-step instructions on
how to do it," Jim Leek said.

"Good enough was never good enough for Bob. It was either done right or it was done wrong. There's no in-between."

Bob
Leek's avid interest in technology carried over into his career as a
firefighter, said his longtime friend and former co-worker Scott Cowden.

He
took pride in knowing everything about the newest gadgets, once driving
for three days to get his hands on a high-tech flashlight destined to
replace the clunky lanterns firefighters once used, Cowden said.

Leek
was also an expert in emergency planning, often working tirelessly
behind the scenes during the SARS outbreak in Toronto and the floods in
Peterborough, Ont., in 2004, he said.

"When I got the call last Sunday, I heard something that I never expected to hear," Cowen said.

"Bob was never the guy that this was going to happen to."

Outside,
dozens of people gathered opposite the hall's gates. Some came to mourn
Leek, while others came to honour what he stood for.

"I know
every single day they go out, on the road, on the streets, everywhere,
and it's just so dangerous – extremely dangerous for them," said Evelyn
Ferland.

"Regardless of how people look at it, it's a dangerous
job. Firefighters, army men, policemen … and they do this for us
people to be safe."

Leek's brother said his family was
overwhelmed by the number of residents affected by the propane
explosion who came to pay their respects.

"I think that, above
all things, would have made Bob happy," he said. "To know that the
people he chose to serve, chose to honour him."

A "final salute" to Leek was also planned at fire services headquarters later Friday.

A
body recovered from the blast site is believed to be that of a
24-year-old international student who worked part-time at Sunrise
Propane, but officials have not released an identity.

The cause of the blast is still under investigation.


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