Savannah dentist looks to teach child life lesson after office burned down in fire

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A Savannah dentist is keeping a positive outlook on life after his livelihood went up in flames. In 2019, an 11-year-old boy was accused of setting his office on fire.

More than a year later, clean-up has begun on what Dr. Philip Friedman calls his dream office. He’s been forced to start all over again but along with that, he’s finding a way to help put the child who did this on the right path forward.

“I could just see that it was done, it was over. My entire life’s work and legacy were going to be destroyed,” Friedman said.

Demolition on Dr. Friedman’s dentist office began a week ago after many setbacks caused by the pandemic.

In 2019, he was away with family when he got the call that his office was on fire. It had been burning for hours. The search began to find who set the fire and one crucial piece of evidence that survived led them to their suspect.

“When the fire marshal spun the harddrive they caught the image of the child actually setting the fire in real-time and looking up at the camera,” the dentist said.

News 3 cannot identify the then 11-year-old child that was caught on video setting the fire nor can we disclose what consequences he faces because juvenile court documents are kept confidential for their safety. Dr. Friedman was recently able to speak to the child that did this.

“I said you know your timing was terrible. You really robbed us of a lot of our time,” Friedman said.

He was robbed of precious time with his wife and father who were dying at the time. He said he’s not angry, he just wants to see something positive come out of this.

“He’s a felon now. He just turned 13 years old. I feel like it’d be very dangerous if he proceeds on the path he’s going on,” Friedman said.

So the dentist has asked the judge to work with him.

“The juvenile court system is not based on punishment, it’s based on rehabilitation,” the dentist said.

Dr. Friedman spent time at the Anderson-Cohen Olympic Weightlifting Gym growing up that helped shape him. He said he’s willing to work with this child to do the same.

“I’ve said the greatest thing that can be done for this child is to give him some time that he clearly is lacking in a positive way that will help him,” Friedman said.

Dr. Friedman told News 3 he has yet to hear back about his offer to help this child. Instead of rebuilding his office he’s planning to sell the land.

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