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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published October 21 2010

Galleria fire samples not back from lab

The investigation into the Galleria On 42nd apartment complex fire continues, with Fargo fire investigators waiting for results from the state crime lab.

The insurance company for the building’s owners is doing its own investigation into the cause and whether anyone was at fault, said Dan Hollwegner, vice president for Investors Management & Marketing, which managed the apartment complex.

The fire on Oct. 11 destroyed the 62-unit complex at 3700 42nd St. S. in Fargo, displacing 150 residents.

Fire investigators believe the fire started on a first-floor balcony in the center of the building.

Deck boards and soil samples have been sent to the state crime lab, said inspector John Arens. The length of time to receive lab results varies, he said.

Insurance representatives are still working to determine the extent of the damage, Hollwegner said.

“We’re just on hold now until they determine if they’re going to rebuild or not,” he said.

Residents had the opportunity to return to the complex last weekend and retrieve any belongings they wanted to save.

Residents were asked to sign a form, which included this paragraph: “All signatories of the lease are required to remove personal property from the unit and sign this form relinquishing any and all claims against the property for the loss of or any missing personal property.”

Carol Cwiak, who had two sons living in the apartment complex, raised concerns about the motives behind that form on an online Facebook page set up to assist the residents.

“Either someone did a horrible job of wording it, or they attempted to see if they could sneak in a release for these people to sign,” said Cwiak, an assistant professor of emergency management at North Dakota State University.

Resident Emily Krein said she interpreted the form to mean that she was releasing the property left behind. Krein said she hopes that’s the case, because residents weren’t in the right frame of mind to make legal decisions.

“We were all just devastated,” Krein said.

Hollwegner said the intent was for residents to release any property they didn’t want, such as wet mattresses, for the property management company to dispose of.

“We wanted to make it absolutely as easy as possible for the residents,” Hollwegner said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590