Businesses struggling to rebuild 1 year after massive Glennville fire

GLENNVILLE, GA (WTOC) - A 21-year old will serve five years in prison for arson after setting downtown Glennville ablaze nearly one year ago.

To this day, businesses that lost everything struggle to get back to where they were.

Business owners say they're glad to see him going to prison and paying for the crime, but they know that does little to help them recover.

Fire ripped through Barnard Street hours before dawn that Sunday morning. It took teams of firefighters to keep it from spreading even further. It burned down five businesses and gutted another.

The block sits empty now. Late last week, a federal judge sentenced 21-year-old Jonathan Culbreath to five years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $800,000 in restitution. A family member of one of those businesses says the sentence doesn't erase the damage done.

"It never quits hurting, to see that history of our family and history of the city, gone in one quick swoop. It doesn't quit hurting to see it every day," said Scott Rogers, Central Pharmacy.

The flames still haunt Barnard Street in a way few will forget. When police arrested Jonathan Culbreath for arson, the idea of someone setting such fire shocked everyone. Mayor Chris Roessler says it shocked him last week to learn a judge had sentenced Culbreath to five years for the crime.

"The important thought is that three businesses were affected," said Mayor Chris Roessler, Glennville. "I'm not a judge, I'll let the court system make their call."

Scott Rogers' family set up shop across the street after losing three generations of work in the fire. The $800,000 fine almost makes Scott laugh.

"That looks like a big number, but we know it's highly unlikely that anybody's gonna get reimbursed that lost in this situation," said Scott Rogers, Glennville fire victim.

Mayor Roessler says he and others met with business owners yesterday to discuss interest loans and grants available to help them rebuild. He says the fire took an element of the city they can't reclaim until something fills this spot. Scott hopes they can start ground work in a few months, however.

"It's gonna take years and years to overcome what we lost," said Mayor Rogers.

The mayor hopes the individual property owners put plans together over the next few months and start moving this block forward again.

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