Man honored for saving neighbors from Atlantic Beach apartment fire

Greg Franek saved lives in June, but now his life is at risk

Duval County leaders held a news conference Wednesday to honor Greg Franek. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local man who helped save his neighbors from an apartment building fire in June is being called a hero.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers recognized the heroism of Greg Franek and honored him with the JFRD Award of Merit for Civilian Lifesaving.

A local man who helped save his neighbors from an apartment building fire in June is being called a hero.

On June 7, Franek’s apartment building in Atlantic Beach caught fire, spreading across multiple units. He woke up, notified every neighbor and worked to get them out of the building.

“Jodi was at her boyfriend’s at the other place. I got them out. Then I went to get Henry. He was the one I was most concerned about. I’m pounding, pounding, pounding,” Franek recounted. “Finally, I said, screw it, Greg. I went and I got a brick. He had a glass door and I was ready to break it.”

The noise is what woke up his friend, and Franek yelled for him to get out.

“By that time, the flames are shooting out in front of me as we go down the sidewalk. And as I did, all of a sudden, I heard the whole thing just go up in like a timber box,” Franek recalled. “That’s all I remember. I broke down. That’s when I realized how bad it was.”

First responders said that had he not woken up people in the apartment, people would’ve died. Thankfully, no one was injured.

“Greg Franek woke up to the horror of an unexpected fire, and instead of turning and running, he selflessly decided to stay and help other people,” Curry said. “There is no doubt in my mind that you save lives that evening, so it’s an honor to be here with you to recognize your actions.”

Franek said he didn’t do it for the award.

“What I did for Henry and my other two friends — they’re my friends — I would think any of you would do the same thing,” Franek said.

Wednesday’s news conference was just about giving the award to Franek.

His life is now at risk. Franek, who’s been on dialysis for two and a half years, said the fire further challenged his chances of getting better. He needs a kidney transplant, but to get one, he needs a home address, which he doesn’t have.

“I’ll be honest, I was in a dark spot right after the fire because I’m like I can’t take anymore,” he said. “I’m waiting for a kidney. I’m on dialysis. I just lost everything.”

But he does have a community.

“He saved lives that night, but what I’m here to say today is it’s time for us to step up and help save his life now,” Powers said.

Anyone who would like to help Franek can do so by donating to his GoFundMe page. That will go toward getting him a play to stay.

Second, go to Mayo Clinic, use Franek’s name and get tested. Type O-negative is needed, and this is how people can help find him a kidney.

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