Small-Town Ohio Chief Makes Big Save in Boston

July 14, 2010
Clayton Assistant Fire Chief Mark Ashworth was inside DeLuca's Market as it burned.

When Clayton, Ohio Assistant Fire Chief Mark Ashworth and his daughter Michelle walked into DeLuca's Market while in Boston last week, the last thing they expected was to be at the center of a fire.

The four-alarm fire caused an estimated $1 million in damage at the landmark grocery store on the morning of July 8, but thanks to efforts of the two out-of-towners and the shop's employees, no one was injured.

Ashworth, who is originally from Providence, R.I. and has family throughout New England, travels to the area at least once a year and was showing his 18-year-old daughter the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

"She had not seen (the area) before," he said. "We were just poking around in there."

Ashworth took a photo of her posing in the store and they proceed to the checkout counter with a bottle of water.

That's when the 23-year fire service veteran observed one of the store's employees come up from the basement and ask for a fire extinguisher.

"There was a little wisp of smoke coming up from behind him and the lights were flickering in the store and you could hear arcing."

He indentified himself as a firefighter and told his daughter to stay put by the cashier.

After making his way down to the basement, he could see the electrical fire running along the floor joists.

"It got to the point where the smoke was so bad that I couldn't get down there to do anything," he said.

After he told the store's manager to call 911, Ashworth and his daughter proceeded to work with the employees to evacuate the store and make sure no one else was allowed in. Tenants who lived above the shop also were alerted.

"Really, the employees did the bulk of the work," he said. "They knew the store inside and out and did a great job at making sure everyone got out safe."

Soon, Boston fire crews arrived at the structure on Charles Street.

"They showed up in no time," he said. "I consider them to be one of the best departments in the country."

Ashworth said he was impressed at how they were able to contain the fire to the one building.

His department in Clayton serves a community of 11,000 people and is comprised of 30 firefighters.

"There's nothing to compare that with, here. I'd love to have half that apparatus show up to a fire."

Michelle didn't feel out of place since she basically grew up in the fire service, he said.

"She had the same reaction and sort of looked at me and said 'Are you kidding me? This place is really on fire?'

"It was just surreal. I would have given all of the money in my pockets for a hose."

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