Perry and Dianna Melton were planning on moving in the near future. Their plans were accelerated Friday when their home at 615 Grand Ave. in Hannibal was destroyed by fire.
“We were getting ready to move and had a bunch of stuff packed,” said Perry Melton. “I’ve got an appointment to meet a lady about a house this evening. Hopefully it will work out. “
Perry Melton was at work when Dianna called about the fire after escaping the blaze with her stepson, Eric, and the family dog.
Dianna was amazed at how quickly the flames erupted.
“I was in my bedroom watching a movie. I got up and went to the kitchen to get something to drink. I walked across my bedroom floor and across my dining room floor, and none of the floors felt hot. I was bare footed, I would have felt it,” she said. “When I went back into my bedroom I seen smoke coming up through the floor boards, no fire, just smoke. My son was still asleep so I ran in and told him, ‘Eric, get up. The house is on fire.’ I grabbed my dog. I was in my nightgown so I put some clothes on and that quick the house was pretty much full of smoke. I got outside, grabbed by cell phone, called 911 and they came.”
Fire Chief Bill Madore estimated that firefighters reached the scene in just three to four minutes.
“First arriving crews and command did an excellent job of assessing the building and fire conditions and eliminating potential risks for us,” he said, noting that a downed power line near the burning house presented a significant risk until a Board of Public Works lineman could arrive.
Speculation at the scene was that the fire started in the basement.
“I looked out my window and I saw these flames coming out from underneath the house,” said Fred Carelli, who lives across Stuart Street from the Meltons.
“I think it was probably the basement,” said Dianna Melton, estimating she had lived at 615 Grand for “about 20 years.” “Some guys had come over to get some scrap metal out of the basement and I don’t know if they threw a cigarette down or what, but it was not long after they left, probably 45 minutes, 30 minutes tops, and I seen the smoke.”
Fire Chief Madore wouldn’t hazard a guess as to where the fire originated until an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s office arrived Friday afternoon.
“I can’t speculate right now,” he said. “Initial crews found heavy smoke and fire in the basement area and also on the first floor. Right now we’re conducting some overhaul. Once we get that finished we’ll begin the investigative phase of the process.”
Page 2 of 2 - Ten firefighters initially responded to the scene, with three others called in from an off-duty crew to assist.
Firefighters had to change their approach to fighting the flames.
“With the advancing fire conditions, the heat and smoke, we actually had to remove all interior personnel due to the fact we weren’t sure whether or not the roof was going to come down. For the safety of all personnel we backed them out and took a defensive approach at that time,” said Madore. “It does get frustrating at times to try to put out a fire such as this that was so far advanced by the time we got here. Everyone worked well. The occupants and responders here are all safe and that’s the main thing at the end of the day.”
That sentiment was shared by Dianna Melton.
“I’m just glad everybody is OK,” she said. “I’m a little worried about where we’re going to stay tonight. It’s getting near winter, so that presents a problem.”
“I’m wondering what to do next ... where to live,” said Perry Melton.