Friday, May 5, 2017

Tirpoke Cleaners was destroyed by a 3-alarm fire in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

Residents shocked by damage after Flemington, New Jersey fire

Friday, May 05, 2017 06:18PM
FLEMINGTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- A dry cleaners was destroyed when flames ripped through the longtime business in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

It took firefighters about three hours to get the fire under control after it erupted around 7 p.m. Thursday at Tirpoke Cleaners on Reaville Ave.

On Friday, residents were showing up to the scene in shock at the extent of the damage.

The massive blaze engulfed the building, gutting it and destroying everything inside.

"I feel very bad for them. I've known them for many, many years and they didn't deserve what happened," said coffee shop owner Bobbie Pyatt.

The Tirpok family has six stores, but this was the production facility where everything was sent to be cleaned. Debbie Neal runs the Lambertville location.

"I just had a girl that I called and she was a little upset because Lambertville's prom is Friday night. So she was unhappy, but everybody else that called, they understand. A fire's a fire," Neal Said.

Owner Andrew Tirpok didn't want to go on camera, but told Action News he was heartbroken and will do everything he can to make it right for customers.

He says he's working with his insurance company to set up a hotline and protocol for people who've lost items in the fire.
Chuck Savelli's stepson sent him a video of what the blaze looked like before it was brought under control.

"Look at that," he said while showing us the video. "See that's really, that's engulfed."

The three-alarm fire was fought by more than 20 fire companies from around the area, who miraculously saved Central Wine Merchants liquor store just about 10 feet away.

"The wind brought it over, so it looked like it was our building also. But the way they had the water set up and the hoses, they just kept it contained. It was the most amazing thing," said clerk Cara Hamrah.

"It's a very nice family-run business and very sad to see that it burned. I learned that this morning," said Diane Papalski.

"We went through the same thing about 30 years ago here. We burned down in '84, so it's a tough rebuild, but they'll do it," said the owner of Central Wine, Steve Little.

While the cause of the fire is not yet known, investigators say at this point it does not appear to be suspicious.


The community is rallying to support Tirpok Clea ners whose longtime Flemington store was destroyed by fire Thursday evening. (Photo: Mike Deak/Staff Photo)

FLEMINGTON, NJ - The community is rallying together to help one of Hunterdon County's landmark businesses, Tirpok Cleaners, after a fire destroyed its home location on Reaville Avenue Thursday evening.

Firefighters from throughout Hunterdon County rushed to Flemington to battle the blaze at the business that has been at the same location for 69 years. The efforts to save the business were so intense that water pressure lowered throughout the borough.

Though the building was destroyed, firefighters were able to keep the fire from speading next door to Central Wine Merchants, another Hunterdon County landmark business. No injuries were reported.

"Even though our building couldn't be saved, the fire departments did an outstanding job tonight," Andrew Tirpok, president of the business with other locations in Hunterdon County, wrote on Facebook. "I can't express how much I appreciate all the hard work they do."

"We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love from the surrounding communities," Tirpok said. "We are committed to rebuilding as soon as possible."

Tirpok added that the business's "point of sale software is cloud- based and we have no data loss, which will greatly assist us in expediting our assistance to you, our customers."

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III said the fire does not appear to be suspicious and the cause is undetermined. The investigation is continuing, he said.

The fire was reported by employees at about 6:55 p.m., Kearns said.

Responding to the scene were the Flemington Borough Fire Department, Raritan Township Fire Department, Raritan Township Police Department, Flemington Borough Office of Emergency Management, Flemington Borough Police Department, Glen Gardner Fire Department, Fairmont Fire Department, High Bridge Fire Department, Stockton Fire Department, Kingwood Fire Department, Sergeantsville Fire Department, Lambertville Fire Department, Readington Fire Department, Lebanon Borough Fire Department, Three Bridges Fire Department, Quakertown Fire Department, Milford Fire Department, Amwell Valley Fire Department, Lebanon Township Fire Department, Annandale Fire Department, East Whitehouse Fire Department, Hampton Fire Department, Flemington-Raritan Rescue Squad, Lambertville Rescue Squad, Clinton Rescue Squad, Whitehouse Rescue Squad, Hunterdon County OEM, Hunterdon County Hazmat Team, Hunterdon Medical Center Paramedics, Hunterdon County Fire Marshalls Office and Flemington Borough Office of Emergency Management.

“I commend the volunteers for their quick response to this fire," Kearns said. "It is a testament to the dedication of these men and women to see so many fire companies and rescue squads come to the aid of their fellow volunteers and keep our county safe. Other structures and businesses surrounding the cleaners were saved by the rapid response and expertise of our selfless first responders.”

Tirpok Cleaners was an integral part of the Flemington and Hunterdon community for decades, always generous in supporting youth groups, schools and other nonprofit organizations.

And now the community is rallying behind Tirpok Cleaners.

"I think it's safe to say that the greater Flemington area feels like it lost a friend in the business community last night due to the tragic fire at Tirpok Cleaners. They've been part of, and a friend to this community for the many decades that I've lived here," Jeff Hoffman of Flemington Precast and Supply posted on Facebook.

"We must do everything that we can to support them and help them through this difficult time," Hoffman continued. " We must not only support our local businesses by shopping here, but we need to pitch-in where we can in situations like this as well."

The Ladies of Hunterdon County, a Facebook group with more than 8,300 members, are trying to organize a donation for those who had prom and wedding dresses at Tirpok Cleaners.

According to the Flemington Office of Emergency Management, several businesses, including 55 Main, Gabby's Pizza, Jack's Pizza, Krauszer's and Steve's Food Store , donated food and water to the army of first-responders who were on the fire scene shortly before 7 p.m. until late in the night.

Borough Councilman Brian Swingle said he told Tirpok that the borough will help "any way we can" to get the business open again.

"One positive thing out of tonight's fire," wrote Flemington resident Tim Hester. "We're all looking out for each other.

For three generations the Tirpok Family has owned and operated Tirpok Cleaners. Andy Tirpok Sr. started in 1936 with a shoe-shine stand on Main Street in Flemington.. In 1948 he built the Reaville Avenue location.

Through the years, Andy Sr.’s son Andy Jr. took over the company and then passed the torch to his son Andrew in 2002.