LAFAYETTE, Tenn. — A north-central Tennessee man is being called a hero for rushing into a burning house to save three neighbors from a weekend fire that instead claimed his life and theirs.
Danny Nash, 55, was killed while trying to evacuate an older couple and a disabled woman from the home.
The fire broke out around 7 p.m. Sunday in a rural part of Macon County near Lafayette (lah-FAY'-et), about 50 miles northeast of Nashville.
The three-bedroom brick house was still smoldering Monday morning and surrounded by police tape. The only part of the structure left standing was a carport with two vehicles inside. The rest of the home had collapsed into the basement. Fire investigators were waiting for the debris to cool down completely before they could determine the cause of the blaze.
Sheila Nash, 54, said she and her husband, Danny, were driving home Sunday evening when they saw smoke rising from the back of their neighbors' home.
"He jumped out of the car and said he was going to save them," she said.
Her husband tried to open the front door, she said, but it was locked. She said he managed to enter the house from a door at the carport and pulled 73-year-old Barbara Solomon and her 80-year-old husband Robert to the front door.
Another neighbor, Tom Dawes, was trying to unlock the front door, but Nash told him to stay away as the house quickly became engulfed in flames.
"He said to me, `Tom, get off the porch, it's fixing to fall,'" Dawes said Nash called to him. Blackened wood and columns were all that remained of the front porch on Monday.
Firefighters later pulled the Solomon couple out, but they did not survive. Sheila Nash said her husband also tried to save Barbara Solomon's sister, 65-year-old Alice Cockrill, who was described by authorities as disabled, but they both were killed.
The Solomons had lived in the ranch style house on the one-lane unpaved Cave Hollow Road for about 30 years and Barbara Solomon had recently retired as a nurse administrator for the Macon County hospital, Sheila Nash said. Robert Solomon had health problems and needed to use an oxygen tank, neighbors said.
"She retired three months ago as a charge nurse at the hospital to take care of her husband," said Lafayette County Fire Chief Keith Scruggs.
Danny Nash grew up on Cave Hollow Road on his family's farm. He and his wife had been getting ready to celebrate their 36th anniversary this month. Sheila Nash said her husband would help Solomons out with small tasks around the house. Danny Nash worked for 10 years at Mueller Refrigeration in Huntsville, Tenn., and was a deacon at the Hilltop Missionary Baptist Church.
The Nashes' daughter, Amy Chandler, 35, said her father's actions were in character for him.
"He didn't think nothing about his own life," she said. "He thought he could save them."
Sheila Nash said she and her husband liked riding motorcycles and horses, and he volunteered to entertain children dressed up as a Shriner clown. Just last week, she said, the couple had gone to a local Head Start program to read to children as a part of national Read Across America activities.
"Danny is the hero," Tom Dawes said. "The good book says there is no greater love than a man who gives his life for a neighbor."