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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Christmas fire leaves couple homeless

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  • An attempt to thaw frozen water pipes on Christmas morning accidentally started a fire which claimed a small house on Chestnut Street.
    Capt. Joe Holman, serving in the capacity of investigator for the Hannibal Fire Department, said that one of the occupants of the house called in the alarm sometime before 11 a.m.
    The firefighters on duty  when the call came in “didn’t stop to write down what time the call came in,” Holman said. “They just left.”
    He determined, following an investigation, that the devise used to warm the pipes caused something in the bathroom wall to catch fire.
    Both occupants, Albert Whittaker Jr., and Kathleen Frieden, were outside of the house with their pets when firefighters arrived on the scene.
    The small house, estimated by Holman at 700 squre feet, is owned by Mary Ann Hoag, he said. “It’s not a very big house.”
    All eight on-duty firefighters, three off-duty firefighters, plus the chief and deputy chief, responded to the fire. By 2 p.m., all fire personnel had left the scene.
    Part of the roof of the house is gone, Holman said. Firefighters locked the door when they left, but with the roof gone, it wasn’t possible to secure the house any further.
    “There wasn’t much salvaged, they lost pretty much everything,” Holman said.
    “We got some of (Whittaker’s)  pictures - some of the things that mean something to him,” said Mark Kempker, who was working at Station One cleaning up the trucks, hoses and equipment following the fire.
    The cleanup procedure typically takes 2 1/2 hours, Holman said.
    While performing this function, firefighter Shawn Smith expressed sympathy for the fire victims.  “It’s a bad deal that this (fire) happened on Christmas. But we’re here for the patrons of the city. We’re just doing our service to the community.”
    The Hannibal Street Department arrived at the fire scene to spread salt on the icy pavement created by water used to fight the fire.

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