TAPPAHANNOCK, Va. (WRIC) — A massive fire in downtown Tappahannock has some business owners scrambling for a new space to rebuild.
Community members stopped by the historic area on Monday afternoon. Among them was George Jennings, who owns G. Booker Jennings Art Studio. Jennings said he was inside his business just minutes before it burned down.
“Somebody came in quickly off the street and said, ‘Get out of here there’s a fire next door,’” he said.
He lost nearly 30 paintings in the fire, as well as all of his tools. According to Jennings, the only thing that was left was a charred safe and his 30-year-old white pickup truck.
“To stand and watch basically everything about your life go up in smoke… it’s kinda tough,” he said.
Joey Reinhardt, president of the Tappahannock-Essex Volunteer Fire Department, said he owns Barbara Printing which is right across the street from the destruction. He remembered being at work when he got the call for the fire.
“The first thing I thought of was Ukraine,” Reinhardt said. “It looks like a small war zone. There’s so much destruction.”
125 firefighters from neighboring agencies helped to attack the flames, according to Reinhardt. Fire crews had difficulty getting water from the fire hydrants because of the town’s old infrastructure, he said.
“The river was our savior with this fire because we were able to get trucks to the river to help pump water,” Reinhardt said.
The fire broke out Friday afternoon along Prince Street. Several businesses including Martin Sale Furniture and Prince Street Cafe were destroyed. Reinhardt said the clean-up process will begin soon and it should take about two years for the area to be revitalized.
“Local businesses run by local folks and they’re all good people,” he said.
In the meantime, business owners whose establishments were destroyed in the fire are looking for temporary spaces to operate their businesses.
The Tappahannock Main Street Association is taking up donations to help rebuild the community.