“My heart breaks for all of Tappahannock.” A fire devastates the city’s downtown | State and Area News

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jul 17, 2022

The cleaning continued on Sunday at Tappahannock where a fast-moving blaze swept through many downtown buildings on Friday.

Several firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion, but otherwise there were no serious injuries in the blaze that started before noon at the back of Martin-Sale Furniture on Prince Street, a block from houses south of the Downing Bridge which spans the Rappahannock River.

Other nearby buildings in the city’s historic quarter, including several vacant houses, were damaged or destroyed, affecting an art gallery, real estate office, beauty salon and cafe, as well as apartments above. above the shops.

At least one family has been moved, Tappahannock Essex Fire Chief Paul Richardson said. A pet cat would have perished.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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In an interview on Sunday, Richardson estimated the damage at nearly $2 million, although it will likely take more than a week to fully assess the situation.

Firefighters were still on the scene Saturday to douse hot spots before a storm later in the day doused the charred rubble, ending the threat of fire, he said.

“Biggest fire I’ve been on,” said Richardson, who served in the department for more than 40 years and was chief for most of the past two decades.

To fight the Tappahannock Fire, firefighters had to draw water from the nearby Rappahannock River.


At one point, firefighters had to make the unusual decision to draw water from another source — the nearby Rappahannock River — when the city’s water supply wasn’t sufficient, Richardson said.

Firefighters came from a dozen or more other jurisdictions to help over the weekend, he said.

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Crews worked to put out a fire in downtown Tappahannock on Friday. The cause of the fire is unknown and the initial damage estimate is nearly $2 million.


The Tappahannock Main Street Association has set up a relief fund for the victims of the fire. All proceeds from the GoFundMe campaign will go directly to the employees and companies concerned.

Beth Sharpe, the association’s executive director, wrote on the group’s Facebook page that she was “deeply saddened but also extremely proud of our community.

“My heart breaks for all of Tappahannock, but especially for the residents, homeowners, business owners and employees of the fire-torn places,” she wrote. “I am confident that this unfortunate situation will not set us back in our revitalization efforts, but will propel us forward with this widespread support.”

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Firefighters managed to save the historic Ritchie House, a nearby structure from the early 1700s, which also survived a massive fire in the same area in 1917.

Richardson said firefighters put out a furnace-related fire at the furniture store about three years ago, but he said it would be difficult to determine the cause of the fire this time around because the building was destroyed.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said.