When panic strikes, people tend to turn to either fight or flight, and Franklin’s Main Street has Graeme Asch to thank that his response is the former.
Nominated by Deputy Chief of Operations at the Franklin Fire Department Glenn Johnson, representatives from Full Service Insurance, Grange Insurance and the Williamson Herald presented Asch with the Community Hero Award for the month of August on Sept. 11, a day of remembrance and gratitude for public servants across the country.
Vice President of Commercial Lines at FSI Patrick Baggett explained that this monthly award is meant to acknowledge unexpected heroism in the community.
“We established, with Grange Insurance Company and the Williamson Herald, the Community Hero Award to recognize people in this great community who have done some seen and some unseen heroic things that really highlight the goodness and the great community that we all are a part of,” he said.
On Aug. 19 around 1 p.m., a second-story deck behind Avec Moi in Downtown Franklin caught fire, endangering the antique store as well as neighboring businesses such as McCreary’s Irish Pub and Eatery and Rare Prints Gallery.
Asch, who had just the right view from his business across the street, the Franklin Mercantile Deli, was notified of the fire by a customer. He told the man to call 9-1-1 and ran to grab his fire extinguisher.
He ran into the businesses directly around the flames, which quickly engulfed the deck and started to creep up onto the roof, and asked for additional fire extinguishers. He was met with perplexed looks that told him no one else had any idea there was a fire.
He got ahold of a second extinguisher and, before he knew it, he was climbing up onto the roof to start attacking the fire. He said he was just trying to contain it to the deck until the fire department could take over.
“I had no idea what I was doing, honestly,” Asch said. “I thought anyone would be there in a minute.”
The heat index was 109 degrees that day.
In the 10-or-so minutes Asch was on the roof, he said he went through three fire extinguishers and started using a garden hose another business owner had set up for him. He said he noticed cardboard, wood and glass panes piled up on the deck, and the glass started to shatter while he tried to keep the flames off the roof.
Franklin Fire Marshal Andy King said construction debris had been tossed onto the deck as a crew was renovating the upstairs apartments since they had no immediate access to a dumpster. After investigation, the fire department believes the fire was started by a cigarette butt catching some of those flammable materials.
King shared that the fire caused anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in damage to the Main Street building. The destruction was mainly limited to the deck and the exterior of the building, though the interior suffered some smoke damage.
“It was definitely a big fire, and it was smaller when we got there,” King said. “He had a positive impact.”
King explained that Asch had good instincts in keeping the fire off the roof, saying “those buildings were built to burn.” If the flames reached much higher, King said he doesn’t want to think about the damage it could’ve caused the entire complex.
“You might remember, back in the early ’80s, there was a fire at Redmonds’s liquor store there that actually burned through that building, and that was not a very pleasant day, so we’re thankful for Graeme’s actions,” he said.
Johnson said he would not recommend citizens climb up on a roof threatened by fire, but he’s thankful for Asch’s help and for his safety.
“I’m glad we have the opportunity to recognize those in the community that do good things,” he said.
To find out how to nominate a community hero for the month of September, visit williamsonherald.com.