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Fargo fire leaves 150 homeless: Firefighters rescue pets from scene of five-alarm blaze

Smoke billows from the roof Monday evening of an apartment fire in south Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

No one was hurt, but 150 south Fargo residents are without a home after a massive blaze Monday night destroyed the Galleria On 42nd apartment building.

Fargo Fire Marshal Norman Scott said he believes the fire began shortly before 6 p.m. in the center of the first floor of the three-story building at 3700 42nd St. S.

The blaze escalated upward from the first floor and spread quickly throughout the attic, Scott said.

Some residents were rescued from the building with ladders, but no injuries were reported, he said.

During the blaze, two firefighters got trapped in a third-floor apartment after the roof caved in and the ceiling collapsed, Scott said.

One firefighter was rescued from the outside using a ladder, and the other was rescued from inside the building, he said.

Both were uninjured and returned to battle the fire after a break.

The most severe damage is in the center of the building and the third floor. The first and second floors have water damage at the very least.

At 11 p.m., firefighters were focusing on hot spots and were starting to relieve some of the emergency responders, said Jesse Schmidt, public relations officer for the Fargo Fire Department.

Crews planned to remain on site for several more hours to monitor the fire, Scott said.

"They'll be checking all night long to make sure they got it out," he said.

Fire investigators will return this morning to continue their work in the daylight.

The building housed 150 tenants in its 62 units, and residents were allowed to have pets. Crews were working to rescue pets Monday night.

Up to 150 area firefighters responded to what officials classified as a "five-alarm fire," Schmidt said.

A five-alarm fire means all 115 members of the Fargo Fire Department are called out, as are members of Moorhead and West Fargo fire departments and the North Dakota Air National Guard, Schmidt said.

Salvation Army volunteers provided food, water and assistance to the firefighters, who rotated in and out throughout the night.

Hundreds of spectators gathered at the sight of the billowing black smoke and flames that were visible for miles.

Authorities shut down traffic on 42nd Street between 32nd and 40th avenues for much of the evening.

The Galleria On 42nd was built in 2000, property manager Doug Pfau said.

"It's really devastating," Pfau said. "I'm happy that nobody was injured."

The Red Cross set up a shelter for displaced residents at Calvary United Methodist Church in Fargo. As of 10:45 p.m., residents had found other places to stay, and no one planned to stay overnight, said a Red Cross representative.

Officials hope to set up a donation fund today, but one local resident was already working late Monday to rally the Fargo-Moorhead community.

Carol Cwiak, an assistant professor of emergency management at North Dakota State University, created the Facebook group "Galleria Fire - Help the Residents."

"Tonight, both my sons were displaced by the Galleria apartment fire along with about 150 other residents. Many of these folks lost everything," Cwiak wrote on the group's page at about 10 p.m.

"I just came off the 'Extreme Makeover' build where I saw the F-M community pull off a miracle," she wrote. "If you have anything left to give, this would be the time to give it. These folks need our help."