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Cleanup begins

Cleaning crews work Tuesday at the site of the Monday apartment fire in southeast Jamestown. A patio door is boarded up as seen on the second floor. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The Monday fire that damaged an apartment building, temporarily displacing the residents, was most probably caused by unattended cooking, according to Lt. Sheldon Mohr of the Jamestown Fire Department.

Mohr completed his fire investigation of the building at at 503 15th St. SE on Tuesday morning and the insurance adjusters' report will come next, said Bonnie Etter, manager of Better Homes Property Management LLC.

"We're pretty fortunate that no lives were lost and everything turned out the way it did," Etter said. "Material stuff can be replaced but lives can't."

The top floor apartment that caught fire in the three-story 12-plex sustained serious damage and the tenant will not be able to return given the time it will take to repair the unit, she said. The sole renter was offered other apartments under the management company, she said.

The two apartments below the burned unit sustained water damage but are currently vacant and no tenants were displaced, Etter said. Residents of the nine remaining apartments should be returning after inspections were completed Tuesday, she said.

There did not appear to be any damage to other apartments during a Tuesday walk through but it's possible there will be smoke damage, Etter said. The concern Monday night was that people not stay in the apartment with carbon monoxide levels, smoke and electrical concerns and the fire department made the decision that all tenants vacate, she said.

"I called everybody just to make sure they had a place to stay and the Red Cross was wonderful for putting up four families," Etter said.

Red Cross volunteers provided financial assistance to four people to help with immediate needs such as food, clothing and emergency lodging, said Gretchen Hjelmstad, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross Dakotas Region in Fargo.

The burned apartment and the water-damaged apartments will be repaired while the other residents remain in the building, she said. Cleanup of the building started Tuesday, she said.

Some key lessons from the fire are the importance of renters insurance and having smoke detectors, she said.

"Smoke detectors save lives, that's all I can say," Etter said.

One tenant, who did not want to be identified, sensed something was wrong and broke the door to the burning apartment, Etter said. He had a fire extinguisher and attempted to help the woman out the fire and called 911, she said.

When it was clear the fire was out of control the man knocked on every apartment door to get them to evacuate, she said.

The 911 fire call to Stutsman County Communications Center came in at 5:34 p.m. JFD responded and had the fire under control at 6:01 p.m., and cleared the scene at 6:52 p.m.