One firefighter called it the “worst type” of blaze to battle.


One firefighter called it the “worst type” of blaze to battle.
Crews overcame hilly terrain, obstructive power lines and low hydrant output in fighting flames that gutted a two-story home and destroyed a family’s belongings at 609 Walnut on Hannibal’s South Side Friday morning.
There were no injuries, but two dogs and several other animals were killed. Smoke could be seen for blocks.
Authorities said the fire started around an electrical hot water heater and spread to the walls. It has been ruled accidental and the investigation has closed.
The house had what Fire Chief Tim Carter called a “balloon” wood frame style that allows fire to spread rapidly.
“It was a very typical type of fire with this type of construction,” Carter said. “We got a lot of older homes like this, especially on the south side, but all over the city.”
The house also sits atop a steep hill and has several power lines nearby. Both factors limited the use of a 75-foot ladder truck.
Instead, crews had to douse the flames mostly with water from ground-based hoses. An older hydrant across the street, however, could only put out about 500 gallons a minute.
“This is probably one of the most difficult fires we’ve had to deal with in a long time,” said Deputy Chief Bill Madore. “It was very difficult to get to.”
Firefighter Dale DeLaPorte said the factors made the fire the “worst type of situation.”
“The only thing that could be worse is that it could be below freezing and our lines would ice up,” DeLaPorte said. “The fact (the house) is still standing is amazing in itself.”
A neighbor, Gilda Powell, spotted flames and smoke and called 911 at 10:31 a.m.
Carter said smoke and flames were pouring from the house when crews arrived. All eight on-duty firefighters and six off-duty personnel were called in.
Fire was found in a first-floor utility room, the second floor, walls and the attic.
“It got into the attic and we’re having trouble getting to it,” firefighter Ryan Neisen said as he took a break. “It’s just part of the territory.”
At one point, crews thought the fire was contained, but flames erupted again and the order was given to evacuate the house.
The fire finally was brought under control at about 11:15 a.m. The roof was bowed and the interior was heavily damaged.
Madore credited fire department training for crews’ ability to save the house and prevent firefighter injuries.
“That’s proof the system works,” Madore said.
The house is owned by Ed Foxall, who rents it to Heidi Meyers and Chris Sarvich and two children.
Sarvich had just left minutes before the fire broke out and Meyers was at work in a downtown pet store. No one else was home. Foxall and Sarvich declined to comment at the scene.
David Chitworth was among several dozen neighbors who gathered to watch firefighters battle the flames.
“My kids saw it and came back in and said ‘Dad, there’s a house on fire,’” Chitwood said. “I feel sorry for them.”
Sarvich, Meyers and the children planned to stay with family.
The American Red Cross has given the family vouchers for necessities and the Salvation Army is accepting contributions.
For information, call the Salvation Army at (573) 221-7072 or send a donation to the agency at 200 S. Ninth, Hannibal, Mo., 63401.