KATY/HARRIS COUNTY (Covering Katy News) – Just when you thought you knew every possible way a firefighter could act heroically, Lt. Jason Tharp has added another category to the list. He’s saved a local resident from the heat. Not heat produced by flames, but heat produced by living for years without air conditioning.
Tharp is the Community Risk Reduction officer for the Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department. They serve a large part of unincorporated Katy. Part of Tharp’s responsibilities involves providing free home safety surveys of residents’ homes. All you have to do is contact him and he’ll come out and check your smoke detectors and other items that are essential to keeping your home safe. (See contact information below.)
Back in June, Mrs. Johnson called him. The 66-year-old woman does not want her first name revealed but she does want the world to know how Tharp and one of his friends changed her life. Johnson asked Tharp to come in the morning. Tharp discovered the reason she wanted him to come early in the day is because that’s when her home is the coolest.
“It’s a blessing. I thank God for Jason and Louie,” she said. Louie Vallery is a local air conditioning repairman. He wanted to help a woman in need. In fact, Vallery even made a service call to the home of Johnson’s friend. She too was in need, and Vallery determined the only problem was that a switch needed to be engaged to solve her air conditioning problems. He did not charge for the service call.
Johnson has been living without air conditioning for “at least seven years.” She can’t remember when the system died. She could not afford to fix it.
“The unit was 36 years old, all original equipment from when Williamsburg Colony had been built,” Tharp said.
When Johnson told Tharp about living without air conditioning she knew he was thinking that the problem could be solved. Sure enough, he found a solution after calling a friend who installed air conditioning units. His friend had a used unit available that was still in working order and had several years of useful service left in its life.
“It was a unit that was still good from another home. This other resident had two units at one house and one unit was out but the other was in really good condition,” Tharp said.
The customer wanted both units replaced, so Vallery installed the unit that was in working order at Johnson’s house. He did not charge Johnson for the equipment or his labor.
“He called me on July 5th and told me he had a unit. He came here the same day,” Johnson said. “I could see the joy in his face that he was able to help people,” Johnson said of Vallery.
Vallery Mayde Creek High School graduate. That’s where he and Lt. Tharp became friends.
“You just don’t see people like that anymore,” Johnson said of the two men.
Johnson suffers from eczema, a very uncomfortable skin condition that is made worse by extreme heat. Now that she has air conditioning in her home, her eczema is under control.
Johnson’s doctor could not get her skin condition under control, but she admits she didn’t tell him about not having air conditioning either. She simply did not want to reveal her situation.
She’d rub cream on her skin and take other steps to relieve her skin condition, but it made very little difference until the air conditioning was fixed. Then her eczema improved tremendously.
It’s been years since Johnson has seen her eczema subside. It’s also been years since she’s seen moisture on the outside of her windows.
“I saw sweat on the windows and I thought it had rained overnight,” she said. “Then I realized it was because the inside of my house was cool, and the outside was hot.”
Johnson can’t say enough kind things about Lt. Jason Tharp and Louie the A.C. man.
“I’m just thankful that I called Jason for a smoke detector,” she said. “I am blessed.”
“We installed six smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide detector,” fire department spokesman Simon VanDyk said. “A lot of people don’t realize if they have a gas appliance, they should have a carbon monoxide detector,” VanDyk said.
VanDyk was very impressed by the extra effort of Lt. Tharp in finding a creative way to solve Johnson’s air conditioning problem. He’d like to see this type of effort continue and hopes trades people and local nonprofits will contact him if they want to brainstorm ways to help more people in need.
“We would love to have a little black book, a list of people who would like to help,” VanDyk said.
If you are interested in having a risk reduction survey of your home or would like to be part of helping those in need in the future, contact the HCESD 48 FD by using the email address below.
Contact Harris County ESD 48 FD for a risk reduction survey of your home: CommuntyTeam@HCESD48.org