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Fargo apartment fire: Residents return to collect belongings

Fargo firefighter Chris Rasmussen helps Mason Mahar, left, and Calen Mahar move items out of the Galleria On 42nd apartment complex Tuesday in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Entering the building ravaged by Monday's fire, Katrina Cordes carried hopes of salvaging furniture from her apartment.

She walked out with only tears and a soggy cardboard box containing a few belongings.

"My bed's completely melted. It's not there anymore," Cordes sobbed as her father, Dave, hugged her in front of the building.

Firefighters escorted tenants of the Galleria On 42nd complex into their apartments Tuesday to save what they could.

Dave Cordes said his daughter's second-floor apartment was the worst one he saw while inside the building. She retrieved her car keys, a keepsake box that said "Dearest Daughter," some personal records and an antique gun from her collection.

"Her room was nuked really bad, poor kid," Dave Cordes said. "It is a royal mess."

Tenants of the 62-unit building used suitcases, boxes and clothes baskets to carry out everything from photo albums and keepsakes to clothing and electronics to a car seat and one WWE wrestling belt.

Jim Perleberg grabbed three guitars while his girlfriend carried an armload of laundry that had been in the dryer.

Amber Froehlich said her clothing and items on the floor were gray and unrecognizable, but she was happy to rescue the college textbooks she needs for midterms and financial aid paperwork.

Some of the 150 tenants found their apartments in better shape than expected.

Calen Mahar, who lives with his brother and his brother's fiancée, was carrying out a flat-screen TV, hunting rifles and clothing. The walls showed signs of the fire, but Mahar expected to be able save everything.

"Surprisingly, it looks just like it did," he said.

Tenants also returned Tuesday to get vehicles that were parked behind the building or in the underground parking.

Some vehicles parked near the building were dirty but didn't appear to be damaged. The underground garage had as much as 18 inches of standing water, but it was draining and residents were able to drive out their vehicles.

Many residents said they're staying temporarily with friends and family. The Red Cross is assisting residents who need a place to stay.

Jordan Haakenson said his friends who work at a local hotel are giving him a room for now.

"Take it day by day," Haakenson said.

Karissa Yates, who lived in a third-floor apartment with her husband and two young children, stayed in a hotel Monday night and planned to move into her stepfather's apartment.

"It will be crowded for a little bit, but it'll be better than a hotel," Yates said.

Kerry Strand, whose ex-wife, Nicole, was in the building with their 3-year-old daughter, Sophia, at the time of the fire, got emotional Tuesday while looking at the charred building.

"They came within inches of the fire probably twice," Strand said. "I count my blessings this morning."

The next challenge will be explaining to his daughter why she can't go back to her home.

"She doesn't understand that, which is heartbreaking," Strand said.