A fire destroyed four businesses on Barnard Street in downtown Glennville early Sunday, and authorities said Tuesday that it has been ruled arson.
Multiple news outlets report that the Glennville police and fire departments are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect, whom authorities said can be seen in surveillance video.
Glennville Deputy Fire Chief Jim Anderson said his department was called to a structure fire about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, but it did not take long for flames to spread to nearby businesses and require assistance from several area fire departments.
About an hour after fire crews began battling the blaze, a backdraft blew out the front windows and knocked several firefighters down, but no serious injuries were reported, Anderson said.
He said there were firearms in Woods Auction and pharmaceuticals in Central Pharmacy, which required firefighters to exercise more caution as they entered these buildings.
The other two destroyed businesses were boutiques, one of which had not yet opened.
The effort to fight the fires was so large, Anderson said, the city’s water system was overwhelmed.
“These buildings are old buildings,” he said. “New facades have been put on them. They put in a new ceiling, so you had several areas of the ceiling and just old buildings hard to fight.”
It took until about 10 a.m. to contain the fire. The State Fire Marshal’s Office and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Drug Enforcement Agency were called to the scene.
Kerry Woods, the owner of Woods Auction, said looking at his burned-down business was “devastating.”
“We just lost everything that we just about owned other than our house, and I just couldn’t believe it this morning,” he said. “It was just a shock and now, knowing that I’ve lost all this.”
Woods expressed as much concern for his four employees as for himself.
“If I can find something, I will,” he said. “And I will get them back employed. That was one of my concerns, make sure they have employment. I just got to look at their welfare as much as mine.”
Woods Auction has operated on Barnard Street for 12 years. He said customers came from not only Glennville, but the surrounding area, around Georgia and even other states.
“We sold anything from furniture to glassware, lawnmowers — anything in a house, outside the house, just any general merchandise,” Woods said.
Glennville Mayor Chris Roessler said the fire caused “a tremendous loss.”
“It hurts because people do business down here in our town, and they employ people. It has a huge impact on our city,” he said. “We’ve just recently revitalized downtown and (are) trying to bring businesses back to the downtown area, and then you get something like this thrown at you. But the good thing is, nobody was hurt, everybody was fine.”
Roessler and Anderson were thankful for the agencies that assisted in fighting the fire. Responding fire departments included Glennville, Tattnall County, Evans County, Fort Stewart, Hinesville and Long County.
“When you get a phone call at 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the morning, it’s one of those phone calls you don’t want to get,” Roessler said. “And it’s unfortunate that four businesses were devastated.”
Anderson recalled two other large-scale fires in Glennville during his 29 years with the department. One was a number of years ago, also on Barnard Street, which destroyed several businesses.
The other was last August, which destroyed part of Armstrong’s Cricket Farm.