Three Hannibal families were driven out into the cold early Thursday morning when the four-unit apartment building in which they lived in the 2200 block of Chestnut caught fire.

Three Hannibal families were driven out into the cold early Thursday morning when the four-unit apartment building in which they lived in the 2200 block of Chestnut caught fire.

While thankful all the residents escaped the flames safely, for at least one of the tenants, Amy Whittaker, being left homeless by a fire was not a new experience.

“This is crazy for me. This is like the third house fire I’ve had in five years, so it’s a little rough on me. But I’m going to take the positive out of the negative and go with it,” she said. “I’m very, very appreciative that we’re all alive. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.”

The fire reportedly started in an upstairs apartment. Whittaker and her boyfriend, Tahvece Snoddy, were asleep in their downstairs apartment when they heard a commotion.

“About 5:20 this morning we heard banging on the door. I thought it was a dream and my girlfriend also thought it was a dream, but we realized it wasn’t a dream,” recalled Snoddy. “We went to the front door and it was the police. They said we needed to evacuate the apartment because there was a fire going on upstairs. He said everything should be OK as long as we get out as quickly as we can.”

Whittaker was initially awakened by a neighbor.

“I heard the girl upstairs yelling. I knew she had a dog so I just figured she was yelling at the dog to go lay down,” she said. “Then I heard some pounding on the door. I heard it, but continued to lay in bed. It’s my day off, it’s Thanksgiving and I wanted to sleep in. But it (pounding at the door) continued, and the pounding was even louder and harder. Finally he (Snoddy) got up out of bed and it was the police. I seen all the lights and he was like ‘Hurry up, you’ve got to get dressed and get out of here, the house is on fire.’”

All the noise also woke up next-door neighbor Robert Morrison.

“It was about 5:30 and I was still in bed. I heard some people talking and I heard banging. I got up because it sounded like somebody was in my house. When I got up I could see the lights out front,” he said. “When I opened the front door I saw the fire trucks and realized they were working on the house next to me. It wasn’t very long after that we had fire coming out the side of the house and I realized it was pretty bad.”

According to Mike Benjamin, deputy fire chief, light smoke was coming from the eaves of the upstairs apartments when the initial responders arrived on the scene at 5:23 a.m.

“They made the attack and knocked down the fire they could see. Then we were finding spots like under the floor that we couldn’t get to so we had a lot of tearing out we had to do which takes a lot of time,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage in the upstairs apartment.”

Fire was not as much of an issue in the apartment shared by Whittaker and Snoddy.

“They were saying that the fire from upstairs came into our kitchen and bathroom. They said that our bedroom is all right and our front room is OK, it just has water damage,” said Snoddy.

Whittaker was hopeful the extent of the water damage would be minimal.

“They actually said they tried getting a lot of our stuff in the living room covered up with tarps – the TV, couch. He said the kitchen is gone. In our bedroom he tried covering up all my jewelry and other stuff we had in there. He said there’s going to be water damage, but he said ours is one of the best looking apartments that is left,” she said.

Because of the close proximity of Morrison’s home to the burning apartment complex there were some initial concerns the fire might jump from one structure to another.

“They were concerned for a little bit, but once they got the main hoses in and put the water to it they got it under control,” said Morrison.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.