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Arson suspected in fire that damages Claremont diner

  • Caution tape ropes off the area around Daddypops Tumble Inn Diner in Claremont, N.H., on Friday, July 30, 2021. Claremont police are searching for a man who witnesses saw set fire to the diner on Thursday night. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America — Alex Driehaus

  • An unlit open sign hangs behind a cracked window pane at Daddypops Tumble Inn Diner in Claremont, N.H., on Friday, July 30, 2021. Claremont police are searching for a man who witnesses saw set fire to the diner on Thursday night. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2021 9:05:54 AM
Modified: 7/30/2021 9:36:18 PM

CLAREMONT — Witnesses near Main Street saw a man lighting a fire at the front of Daddypops Tumble Inn Diner on Thursday night shortly before the beloved restaurant was damaged by the flames, according to Claremont police.

Arson investigators, including the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office, are looking for the suspect who witnesses say was wearing a gray top and gray sweatpants outside the diner at 1 Main St. around the time of the fire at 9:05 p.m. The blaze is being investigated as an “intentionally set fire,” according to a news release from Claremont police.

Firefighters responded to the scene Thursday night to find flames “spreading from a lower-level window,” of the one-story diner, according to a news release from the Claremont Fire Department. Crews were able to knock down most of the fire from the outside with a single hose line before entering the basement to finish the job. The fire was under control at 9:22 p.m., according to the release.

Claremont Deputy Police Chief Mark Grasso said that after the blaze was extinguished, investigators found several pieces of evidence, including a “suspected ignitable liquid” at the scene.

Claremont Fire Chief Bryan Burr said much of the fire damage was in the basement, while the main floor was mostly damaged by smoke. The building is not destroyed but will take at least a few weeks to repair, Burr said.

The restaurant, which was open earlier in the day, was closed and empty by the time firefighters arrived, Burr said.

In a Facebook message Friday afternoon, a person who identified as the manager and was using the diner’s Facebook account said the owners hope to reopen within a week.

“Damages aren’t that bad, just a lot of cleaning to do first and obviously some repairs,” the person wrote.

Yellow police tape stretched across the Main Street entrance to the small, 80-year-old diner Friday morning. Normally bright white and red, the facade’s colors were covered in black soot and one panel of wood with the words “booth service” was ripped off the side of the building and sitting nearby.

For business owners and employees in the area, the news was difficult to take.

“I’m getting a little scared,” said David Santini, who owns E&D Shoes just a few doors down on Opera House Square, adding that he’s glad the fire didn’t reach propane tanks near the diner. “It could have been a lot worse.”

He called the restaurant, with its tin roof and metal siding, an “old-school” diner that’s a regular breakfast spot for Claremont locals.

Patricia Pacini, who works just feet away at Nana’s Recyclables and Used Furniture, said the news about the fire is “horrible,” especially because the owners managed to maintain steady business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a landmark,” she said. “They have regular clientele.”

The diner, which is just under 700 square feet and assessed at $41,000, was built in 1941 by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. It is still at its original location, according to the RoadsideArchitecture.com website.

For years, it was called just the “Tumble Inn Diner,” until it was purchased in 1996 by Deb Kirby. She told the Valley News in a 2007 interview that she attached “Daddypops” to the name as a nod to her father, who owned Daddypops Diner in Hatboro, Pa.

Messages to the owner, who now goes by the name Deborah Carter, were not returned Friday.

The diner is a popular campaign stop for presidential candidates in the New Hampshire primary.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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