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Moultrie businesses burn

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

September 30, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Frustrated business owners are cleaning up damage caused by arsonists in downtown Moultrie.

Troublemakers torched decorative haybales in front of several businesses. Three lost their store fronts, one may close for good. It could have been worse without quick action from good Samaritans.

Store owners say the hay bales are a tradition in downtown Moultrie. They were passed out Monday so store owners could decorate for fall and kick off the holiday shopping season. If two men hadn't broken off limbs from trees and pushed the burning bales away from the storefronts the damage may have been worse.

Surveillance video from the Blue Sky Grill shows the damage. You can see thick clouds of smoke passing by the camera and another camera near the door shows the reflection of flames against the restaurant's picture windows. Outside Ben Spurlock caught a good picture of the damage.

"We got a lot of smoke damage, the restaurant smells awful right now," said Randy Bannister, Blue Sky Grill Owner.

Store owners loaded what was left of the unburned decorations and hauled them out of town. The Blue Sky Grill and Henson Sewing Center had mostly exterior damage while at Heritage Embroidery and Gifts it was worse.

"It's cost a lot of people a lot of money for nothing," said Bannister.

There's a thick smell of smoke here at Heritage Embroidery and Gifts a lot of the items are still damp and smell like smoke with 90 percent of the store soft items they could lose their entire inventory.

"It doesn't look bad until you walk through the door and after 15 minutes you can't breathe anymore," said Harvie Ann Cox, Heritage Embroidery & Gifts.

Two men on the street basically saved the store.

"They broke my side window in my front and grabbed a pillow case that was on fire and threw it out if they hadn't my whole store would have gone up," said Cox.

Now she's left with melted Webkins and merchandise she can't sell and a broken spirit over what she calls the foolish actions of others.

"It's such a shame because that's one of the charms of Moultrie's downtown is that everyone works together we have a marvelous downtown Merchants association a great main street program that pulls us all together and then someone pulling pranks probably out for kicks made a foolish, foolish mistake," said Cox.

Last night someone spotted a pick up truck leaving that area of First Street Southeast near where the fires were set, however they didn't get a good look at the truck.

Moultrie Police and Fire Fighters are asking anyone with information about the fires to contact authorities. Henson Sewing Center was open for business Monday. Blue Sky Grill hopes to reopen Wednesday night.

Heritage Embroidery and Gifts hasn't decided whether they will reopen the business after repairs are made.

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