"First, we heard popping. Then cracking. There were sparks coming out of the light in the shower area. By the time I got out the door, smoke was already coming out the back," said Maura Curry.
Just before 6 p.m. Friday, Maura stopped by to visit Karen Ruble at her new rental house at 208 North Fifth St. Karen had decorated the little pre-Civil War era house to suit her own tastes, including the display of her own original artwork. Soon, Maura was on the sidewalk in front of the house, rubbing her friend's back and offering a shoulder to lean on.
Firefighters were working quickly to extinguish a fire that threatened not only the house, but Karen's artwork as well.
Betty Atkins was just behind the fire trucks when they arrived at the scene. "They thought the fire was out," Atkins said, "but when they turned on the fan to get the smoke out, smoke started coming out of the eves."
Firefighters were then forced to take chain saws to the roof, in order to get into the attic and extinguish the fire.
Atkins said that Ruble had just purchased and taken possession of the Becky Thatcher Restaurant, just two blocks away, and was happy to find a nice home so close to work.
Frame said that he would call in an investigator in order to determine the cause of the fire.
"We received a call that the fire was in the bathroom," Frame said. "The guys packed up and went in, but the fire had made its way to the attic."
Joyce Peters, who has owned the house since around 1977, said she had just rented the house to Ruble recently. "I love this house. It was the first (rental) house I ever bought."
She said that when Esley Hamilton, a preservation historian, conducted a survey of Hannibal historical properties in the 1970s, he dated the construction of the house around 1850. She said he speculated that this little two-room house on the level part of North Fifth Street may have been built by a rich merchant who couldn't get his horse-drawn buggy up the hill to his mansion in the winter.
She said the house has a nice fireplace in the basement, and she recently had the hardwood floors refinished.