Previous fire occurred Oct. 17

For the second time in less than a month, investigators are searching for the cause of a fire in a vacant hotel building on Mark Twain Avenue in Hannibal.

The latest blaze at the Best Way Inn, 612 Mark Twain Ave., was reported shortly before midnight on Thursday, Nov. 8. The hotel complex consists of two buildings. Both fires occurred in the rear building, which is not connected to utilities.

The Hannibal Fire Department responded to the report of a structure fire with smoke showing at 11:38 p.m. Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters discovered smoke coming from the front of the detached and unoccupied portion of the hotel.

Firefighters discovered multiple fires upon entering the structure. It took firefighters less than 10 minutes to put out the fires, according to the incident report.

No one was found inside the structure during primary and secondary searches conducted by firefighters. No members of the public or firefighters were injured.

Eight firefighters from all three stations initially responded to the call. In addition, five off-duty personnel were called to the scene. Firefighters conducted overhaul work and investigated the cause of the fire for more than two hours.

As of Friday morning, the cause of the fire was still under investigation. A fire that occurred at the hotel on Oct. 17 was found to be incendiary in nature.

Lt. Jennifer Grote of the Hannibal Police Department said that fire investigations are co-investigated between Hannibal Police Department and the Hannibal Fire Department’s Investigators and/or the Missouri Fire Marshall.

“HPD was on scene last night and spoke with those in the area at the time of the fire and conducted a neighborhood canvas which is common procedure during a fire,” Grote said.

Joey Burnham, Hannibal building inspector, said two rooms had “pretty extensive damage,” but he was unsure how much of the damage occurred during the latest fire and how much resulted from the October blaze.

In October, firefighters were called to the hotel at 6:51 p.m. to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the vacant rear building. No one was injured.

Grote offered a possible explanation for the recent fires.

“In vacant or unsecured structures with changing temperatures, it is not uncommon for transient traffic to find shelter and build their own fires for warmth. If someone builds an open fire inside a structure, there could be other unknown flammable materials which creates a substantial risk for the fire to become uncontrolled,” she said.

After two fires in just over three weeks, Burnham said more needs to be done to secure the property. “I told the owner last night he has until next Friday (Nov. 16) to get the building completely sealed up... boarded up, where nobody can get in it,” he said.

According to the Marion County assessor’s office the deed holder on the property is Manish V. Patel.

danny.henley@courierpost.com