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Groups rally to help fire victims
Butch Broome sets aside boxes filled with Christmas dinner Tuesday at Fish Tales Restaurant for families affected by the recent fire that destroyed Dennys on Hwy. 17. - photo by Photo by Hallie D. Martin

A fire that destroyed a Richmond Hill restaurant earlier this month also burned away jobs for a couple dozen employees, but some of those families will be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner thanks to a fishing club and other local groups.
On Tuesday, Butch Broome, owner of Fish Tales, Pete Buhles and Lee and Rosie Southard, all members of the Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club, assembled boxes of food at Broome’s restaurant at the Fort McAllister Marina.
The boxes were filled with Christmas dinner and will feed 28 families whose members lost jobs when Denny’s on Hwy. 17 was destroyed by fire on Dec. 7.
“Christmas is about giving,” Broome said. “We’re glad we could help out.”
The fishing club raised $2,300 during a tournament in November. There was money left over after the club bought 14 bikes and helmets for the Bikes for Tikes drive, which was run by the Bryan County Department of Family and Children Services. 
The fishing club spent about $800 on turkey, green beans, rolls and other food for the families affected by the Denny’s fire. Most of those receiving the boxes are local and there are between two and eight people in each family, Lee Southard, fishing club secretary, said.
“We figured we could help them out as much as possible,” he said.
Southard said the boxes also included a $25 gift card from Kroger. And other local businesses are helping out, as well. The Bryan County Children’s Fund provided around $2,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards, and Ella’s in Richmond Hill donated Christmas trees to the families.
The Denny’s Fire Victims Fund, an account to help the affected families, is still open at the First Bank of Richmond Hill.
Denny’s restaurant was destroyed on Dec. 7 by a fire that started in the attic of the restaurant. As for the 45 employees that worked there, the Chris Lake, a former manager at the Richmond Hill Denny’s who was transferred to a Denny’s in said previously the corporation was working on moving them to other area Denny’s restaurants.
The employees are also collecting donations to help their co-workers who have not yet been placed at another Denny’s location, Lake said.
It is still not clear what caused the fire, Richmond Hill Fire Department Chief Vernon Rushing said this week.
“It’ll be a while before we hear anything,” he said.
No injuries were reported from the fire. Rushing previously said arson was ruled out and that he suspected the fire might have been electrical in nature. But he couldn’t say for sure the exact cause of the blaze.
The Richmond Hill Fire Department, Bryan County Fire Department, Richmond Hill Police Department, Bryan County EMS and Liberty County emergency services all responded to it. The blaze sent heavy smoke out over Hwy. 17, which was closed for more than an hour on Dec. 7.
The charred remains of Denny’s still sit behind a chain linked fence, but Lake said two weeks ago that Denny’s would rebuild. She was not sure when the new restaurant might open. 
“It’s sad,” she said. “It’s really sad that it happened.”

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