TAPPAHANNOCK, Va (WRIC) — After smoke visible from several miles away had faded, the full extent of a Tappahannock city block gutted by flames prompted residents to share their relief no one was hurt.

A late morning blaze on Prince Street destroyed one of the Martin-Sale furniture stores, a newly opened cafe and a realty estate agency, and damaged a hair salon.

The sounds of pops and whistles from propane tanks caught in the middle sent firefighters running with their hands to their ears, according to Tony Richards who works across the street.

“Within 30 minutes, those flames were 100 feet tall,” Richards said. “When I first rounded that corner, it was way hotter than it was in the sun. The front of my building melted.”

The Tappahannock Art Gallery, where Tony Richards described the front of his building melting in the heat of the fire. (Photo Courtesy Ben Dennis/ 8News)

A store employee who was inside the furniture shop at the time of the fire told 8News they saw smoke coming from the second-floor area, and said he told his wife and brother to run. The blaze quickly spread and intensified.

Tappahannock Fire Chief Paul Richardson said seven counties sent emergency fire and EMS teams to knock the blaze down. Richardson described the reality of loss in the town where he lives, saying, “It’s pretty sad, the whole building like this to go down. But, you know, people work there every day so it’s pretty sad about that. It’s just fortunate that no one got hurt that’s for sure.“

Richardson acknowledged that four firefighters suffered heat exhaustion, and were sent to VCU Medical Center in Richmond for treatment.

In total, Richardson said three buildings were reduced to ruins, and three others had been partially damaged.

Among neighboring structures hit by flames was Tommy Turner’s home, who expressed nervousness about the extent of the damage — though fire officials told him they were minor.

“I’m glad I got my dog out, and my wife is fine and everybody’s OK, and that’s the important thing,” Turner said.

“They’re all old wood frame houses. Most of these houses were built in the 1800s or early 1900s. When one caught, they just kind of jumped to all of them,” he added.

The plots of land where fallen walls, soot and singed property may reveal clues about how the fire began.

Richardson’s initial damage estimate topped $2 million.