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‘You can’t leave that out of your mind’: Businesses remember Richmond Hill fire one month later

Published: Oct. 17, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT
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RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WTOC) - One month ago Sunday, a devastating fire displaced several Richmond Hill businesses off Ford Avenue.

Today is a day that 10 businesses and the owner of the building will never forget. They woke up to the scene of a fire that left them trying to salvage what was left of a place many of them called home.

“The smoke...the fire...is still hot. The embers are hot. You can’t leave that out of your mind regardless of how a fleeting time is and it’s still fresh,” said Dynamic Tax Owner Kevin Bowes.

Time might have passed, but everything about that day replays clearly in their minds.

“The first few days after, I was in and out of there quite a bit trying to salvage things and salvage a trailer for things that were not salvageable,” said Owner of Kelly Chiropractic Dr. Tim Kelly.

The owner of the building raced over to the scene after he woke up to a deputy sheriff at his doorstep that morning.

“I’m like Robbie what are you talking about? He’s like your office building is on fire,” said Building Owner Gene Wallace.

For Bowes, it was all a lot to take in so he took some time to process it.

“I took about a week and a half off to smell the flowers kind of recollect a little bit,” he said. “I mean I was scared I didn’t know what to do.”

“There’s still some days I get in the car and I had a direction and I think I’ll go by and check on the...no, I don’t need to check on the building do I?” said Wallace.

The building still has the same crime tape up and now a fence wrapped all the way around.

“It’s been humbling,” said Kelly.

The community has tried to make sure none of these businesses miss a beat.

“There was a huge outpouring of ‘hey, I can help. Hey I can help, hey I can help,” said Bowes.

That support has already landed Bowes in a place of his own and gave him back something he thought was lost in the fire.

“Courage.. honestly. Tangible things. It does nothing if you want to give up.”

Dr. Kelly is closer to moving in his new space too.

“Come back bigger and bigger and better than we ever were.”

Dr. Wallace said he’s had this building for at least 20 years so he’s not ready to let it go. In fact, a rebuilding plan might be coming soon.

“I’m looking forward to seeing things start to happen.”

“As far as where we go from here, I don’t know. I know where we are right now and will just see what the future holds,” said Kelly.

The Richmond Hill Fire Department says the investigation is complete and the cause of the fire is undetermined. That just means they couldn’t fit it into a specific category. There’s no indication the fire was suspicious or intentional.

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