10:36 a.m. update:
The Austin Fire Department says that the fire at Franklin Barbecue was an accident caused by a wind-blown ember from a pit that ignited combustible surrounding materials. The fire is estimated to have done $200,000 worth of structural damage and $150,000 worth of content damage.
A fire destroyed part of Franklin Barbecue, one of Austin’s most iconic businesses, early Saturday. Nobody was injured in the blaze.
James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin said he received the call at 5:37 a.m. alerting him that his restaurant was on fire. He jumped in his truck and headed to the restaurant he and wife Stacy opened at 900 E. 11th St. in 2011.
He and his team deal with fire everyday, so he says he didn’t freak out when he first heard the news. But when he arrived, he realized the fire was much worse than he expected.
The smokehouse, where the fire originated after what Franklin suspects was an errant ember that escaped the smoke box, was almost completely destroyed. Part of the roof had caved in, and the walk-in coolers suffered serious damage.
“Damage is certainly worse than I thought it was going to be,” Franklin said following a walk-thru with the Austin Fire Department. “We deal with fire everyday. It was inevitable someday something was going to be a problem. I just hope we can get it back together.”
The fire was contained to the room that houses the smokers, however, so the restaurant’s kitchen and dining room only suffered smoke damage.
“There was not as much property loss as most restaurants would have,” Franklin said.
Franklin said he assumes the entire frame of the smokehouse will have to be torn down and rebuilt.
“I kind of had a gameplan to get us back open, but going inside kind of crushed that,” Franklin.
Franklin said he still hopes they will be able to reopen in a few weeks, but they will have to wait for the rain to cease before a full analysis can be done.
“It’s odd for me to not be cheerful,” Franklin said in between some laughs and levity. “I got some thoughts going on for sure. I’m not so upset about what’s already happened; I am more looking toward what we’re going to do going forward.”