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Brittany Lawonn and Carrie Snyder, Published June 14 2008

Apartment complex burns in south Fargo

Updated 4:46 p.m.

FARGO - No one was injured in a noon-hour apartment fire in south Fargo on Saturday that left dozens of people homeless.

Firefighters attacked the blaze originating in a third-floor apartment, before it spread to the building’s attic, said Assistant Fargo Fire Chief Dean Meyer.

“Then it spread really fast, and we weren’t able to get ahead of it,” said Meyer.

Firefighters worked as quickly as possible to pull up the ceiling and reach the fire, he said.

It is believed that flames spread from a window to the building’s eaves, were pushed by gusting winds across the attic, leaving holes and open sky in place of the roof, he said.

Authorities accounted for all residents and pets living in the 20-unit building, said Shannon Grussendors, a leasing specialist with Goldmark Property Management, which owns the building.

Joe Westbrock was watching a movie with his fiancée, Erica Schafer, when he heard a “big boom” in the apartment next door.

He looked outside and saw flames shooting out of his neighbor’s patio, pulled the fire alarm and told Schafer to call 911.

Westbrock grabbed Schafer’s wedding dress and a laptop computer, ran down the hall knocking on doors as hard as he could yelling “fire.”

The couple, who didn’t have renter’s insurance, was joined outside by several neighbors who watched their three-story Granger Court apartment building located at 915 43rd St. S. in Fargo burn.

Katie Anastasi was working at Starbucks near Interstate 29 when she saw smoke. She unknowingly joked with her roommates, who are also her co-workers, that their apartment was on fire.

As she drove home, Anastasi found she was right.

“I slammed on my brakes in the middle of the road and started bawling,” she said.

Because her apartment is surrounded by several other apartment buildings, Ashley Shearer hoped it wouldn’t be her building. After hearing about the fire, she ventured outside to check while on break from work at West Acres mall.

Shearer cried as she looked at the hole that used to be her ceiling, saying she does not have renter’s insurance.

“I’ve been there two years,” she said, holding her hand to her mouth.

She was among several residents and spectators using their cell phones Saturday to capture images of the fire.

The cause of the fire and damage amount was not immediately known. The entire building sustained water damage, Meyer said. The building’s roof is completely burned away, and some of the siding was melted off.

It is unclear when the residents of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be allowed back into the building, but Goldmark is providing them similar living units comparable in price and size, Grussendors said.

The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are assisting those left homeless with hotel stays for up to three or four days and monetary assistance for food and clothing for about a week, Grussendors said.

A few firefighters were overheated while fighting the blaze, but they rested and are alright, Meyer said.

Location of Granger Court apartment fire

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541 and Forum photographer Carrie Snyder at (701) 241-5516