Putting the safety of the community above one's personal safety comes naturally for any firefighter. Larry Hein exemplified that trait, say his colleagues, who are mourning the loss of a dedicated friend.
Hein, who served as assistant chief of the East Contra Costa Fire District, died at home March 29 at the age of 47 following a battle against cancer. He is being remembered as a dedicated member of the community he served.
"I will remember Larry as a right-brain thinker," said Mike Arnold, a retired East Contra Costa fire chief who worked with Hein for many years. "He would look at a problem and give a different twist on the solution to fixing it. He was very mechanically inclined."
One of his many responsibilities at the district was to oversee the safety of his firefighters, and according to Arnold, he was very conscientious in his duties as safety officer.
"He took the security of the fire district health and welfare for the employees very seriously and worked to make things better for everyone," Arnold said.
Although Hein had a biology degree from UC Santa Cruz, he entered into a career in public service during college. He and his older brother, Gary, became volunteers of the Corralitos Volunteer Fire Department.
During his junior year of college he worked weekends for the Eastern Fire District. According to Arnold, Hein worked his way up and held many positions in the East Diablo Fire District in Brentwood before it consolidated with other East County agencies under its present name.
On his own time he worked outside of the district to convince the Brentwood City Council to make homes safer by introducing the Brentwood Residential Sprinkler Ordinance.
"He had hoped to expand the ordinance outside of Brentwood and into Oakley and Bethel Island, but he ran out of time," Arnold said. "Larry believed in safety for everyone first. That was important to him."
Arnold said that the time Hein spent at City Hall working on projects like the sprinkler ordinance was done off-duty, and he wasn't reimbursed by the district for his efforts.
Hein also wrote a column for the Brentwood News on fire safety.
When he wasn't working, Hein spent as much time as possible with his two sons, Stephen and Danny.
"He spent more time with his sons than most fathers get to spend with their kids," Arnold said.
Hein would spend time exposing his sons to all kinds of activities, according to Arnold, including taking trips to the California Department of Forestry where he showed them what it was like to make air drops during fires.
"He loved spending time with his family. It was very important to him," Arnold said.
He enjoyed taking "adventures," as he described them, with his family and enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities. One thing that many will remember about Hein was that he was an optimist. He believed that anything that needed to be done could get done.
"He was a big part of making it happen," Arnold said.
Hein leaves behind his wife, Janet, and sons, as well as his brothers -- Paul, who was a fire chief for the East Diablo Fire District, Gary and Ken. In accordance to his wishes, any donation in his name should be sent to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation at 665 Third St., Suite 345, San Francisco, CA 94107.
Services were held Wednesday.
BORN: March 12, 1958
DIED: March 29, 2005
SURVIVORS: Wife Janet Hein; sons Stephen and Danny Hein; brothers Paul, Gary and Ken Hein, and other near relatives
Distributed by the Associated Press