THAYER -- Quick action by the Thayer Fire Department as well as mutual aid from the Mammoth Spring Fire Department and an aerial fire truck from the West Plains Fire Department may have kept what was already a serious problem from developing into a disaster.
Thayer Fire Chief Norman Todd said local firefighters were called to the Chestnut Inn in the downtown business district of Thayer, at 4:11 a.m. April 9.
Todd said the fire started in the back of the building in apartment 10. He said the state fire marshal has looked at the building but a cause to what may have triggered the fire has not yet been released.
"The roof fell in and the building is a total loss," Todd said. Theresa Richardson is the manager of the Chestnut Inn.
She said, in all there were 13 apartments at the inn and 12 of them were occupied.
"The whole basement was an apartment but it had been flooded due to recent heavy rains so only 12 apartments were filled at the time of the fire," Richardson said.
She said 23 people lived in the apartments.
Richardson herself also lived at the Chestnut Inn.
"We were awakened by the scanner saying there was a fire here. My boyfriend and his dad also lived here. We got him and my oldest son who was at the apartments out," she said.
Richardson said she had started collecting rent money the day before and all the rent she had collected burned in the fire.
She said James Hunter from California had recently purchased the apartments and had been making several improvements.
"The upstairs had been painted; we put in new light fixtures; all apartments had received new stoves and some new carpet," Richardson said.
Smith's Buffet owner, Lorna Smith, said she opened early April 9 and was glad to be able to help those in need.
"We usually don't open till 6 a.m. We started letting people in that morning at 5:20 a.m. These people needed help. We gave discounts on meals for the fire victims that day. If anyone couldn't afford to pay we didn't turn them away," Smith said.
The Red Cross was set up in the front of Smith's Buffet. Wendy Donahue serves as the local Red Cross Chapter representative and was at the restaurant to help the fire victims. Billie Probst another Red Cross official from Doniphan was also on hand to assist.
"We are here to help people with immediate needs such as clothing and food. We will also be helping those who don't have friends or family in the area find a place to stay," Probst said. According to Probst, by the end of the day everyone had found shelter.
Todd said the firemen worked at putting out the fire for nearly 10 hours. "As bad as it was, we are very fortunate no one was injured or even killed in this fire," Todd said.
The only other business affected by the fire was Ream Optometrist located directly next door to the Chestnut Inn. They re-opened April 8.