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Forum staff reports, Published April 30 2013

No injuries in attic fire at south Fargo apartment

FARGO – An attic fire Tuesday displaced 28 tenants and damaged a south Fargo apartment building that didn’t have a central fire alarm system or sprinkler system, officials said.

All tenants in the 12-unit Kennedy Apartments at 4219 10th Ave. S. escaped without injury, Fargo Fire Marshal Norm Scott said.

The fire was reported at 9:03 a.m. Tuesday. Firefighters stationed two blocks away arrived quickly and discovered fire in the attic on the building’s south side, Scott said.

“They were able to pull down some of the ceilings and knock the fire down,” he said.

Michael Cain, 22, and Stan Kwiecien, 26, were asleep in their third-floor unit on the building’s west side when Cain awoke to someone buzzing the apartment. He said he then heard knocking and finally a firefighter banging on the door.

“There was smoke in our entryway coming from the hallway,” said Cain, who described his emotion at the time as “more adrenaline” than fear.

Fargo Fire Department Battalion Chief Bruce Anderson said there were no smoke alarms sounding when firefighters arrived.

The building doesn’t have a central fire alarm system or smoke detectors in the hallway, Anderson said. There are smoke detectors in the apartment units, “but there really wasn’t any smoke to speak of in the units,” he said.

Property records available through the city’s website show the building was built in 1984 and is owned by Inreit Properties LLLP.

Scott said the fire code that was in effect when the building was built required a central alarm system in buildings with 16 or more units or at least three stories. A garden-level floor like the one at Kennedy Apartments wasn’t considered a story, so the alarm system requirement wouldn’t have applied to the building, Scott said.

“Today, being a 12-plex, it would have to have a sprinkler system, but not back then,” he said.

Fire investigators were trying to determine the cause of the fire, which appeared to have started in the attic, Scott said.

“There are electrical wires up in the attic area to power different things in the ceiling, so it could be electrical in nature,” he said.

Anderson said the second- and third-floor hallways had smoke damage, and the unit in which the ceiling was pulled down was heavily damaged. Firefighters were still pulling out insulation in the unit at about 2 p.m.

The local American Red Cross chapter opened an evacuation center at its office for the displaced tenants and also gave them food and clothing. The Red Cross will provide 15 hotel rooms for eight families over the next few days, or longer if residents can’t get back into the building, spokesman Brian Shawn said in a news release.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528