Williston, ND (KEYZ) Williston Firefighters remain at the scene of a devastating apartment fire at the Valley Rentals Complex behind Wal Mart at 42 street and 16th, where dozens were made homeless. The first alarm went out around 2:45, and what arriving firefighters saw made their skin crawl. Flames through the roof of the three story modern apartment building, and moving systematically from apartment by apartment driven by strong westerly winds, says Chief Jason Catrambone.
“We did have some wind last night and it carried it through that attic space, which is the only part of these buildings that isn’t sprinkled. So there wasn’t a sprinkler system in the attic so it didn’t have anything to stop it. Our crews immediately went up and started with interior attacks, as well as using our aerial devices to try and control it and contain it,” said Catrambone.
While nearly 40 firefighters from Williston city and rural departments fought back flames, Mike Smith head of Williams County Emergency Management and his crew sifted through the dozens of residents, offering shelter and aid to some residents wandering as if in a trance as their world went up in smoke.
“(There were) somewhere between 60 and 70 residents, some of those people went to (stay with) friends and family, some had the means to put themselves up or go to other places and I counted some 18 apartments, that’s not people but just apartments, 18 apartments that said they were going to need a place to stay,” says Smith. To the rescue, at least temporarily the property owners of the Valley Rentals, booking the homeless into rooms at a nearby motel.
“The Main Stay Hotel has opened up and we have sent most of them there. Later to day we expect the Red Cross will be out to help us place others as well as see to additional needs,” says Smith.
All of them, like Cory who lives on the first floor, happy to have gotten out alive. “Luckily the fire alarms worked the way they were supposed to and alerted everybody,” he said, shifting his feet in the water soaked grass, just feet away from a busted window, he used to escape the building.
The cause in under investigation.