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Published March 28, 2010, 08:55 PM

Bemidji Fire Chief One Of The Tenants Displaced By Apartment Fire

Some of the people who lived in the apartment building are staying with family and friends; others are looking for a new apartment to rent for now.

By: Renee Chmiel, WDAZ

It will likely be at least six months until people who lived in a Bemidji apartment building will be able to move back into the complex. A fire ripped through the Regency Park apartments Monday afternoon. Some of the people who lived in the apartment building are staying with family and friends; others are looking for a new apartment to rent for now.

The fire destroyed seven apartments and damaged more than ten others. It took five fire departments to put the fire out.

"There was smoke coming from the third floor balcony and fire was starting to go onto the eaves," said Jacob Hawley of the Bemidji Fire Department.

Hawley was one of the first on the scene. The fire started on this balcony on the south side of the building, and because of the wind, it spread quickly. Discarded smoking materials are to blame. Despite this damage, the department says it could have been much worse. There are fire walls in the building that prevented the fire from spreading more than it did.

"We remained on scene until about 3 o'clock the next morning, just watching the fire, making sure nothing flared up," said Jacob Wettschreck of the Bemidji Fire Department.

Since the building no longer meets code, no one is able to live there now. One of those displaced by the fire was the Bemidji Fire Department's own chief. He says he wasn't concerned about his own unit when he got there, and that since the fire was at the building he lived in, he was better equipped to help fight it.

"It actually gave me some advantages. I had a pretty good idea of the building layout. I understood what the building had for protection systems," said Chief David Hoefer.

Hoefer, who became the Chief only two months ago, is staying with his family in Grand Forks right now. He was one of the fortunate tenants who didn't lose what he had in the apartment.

"The property management firm has allowed the tenants to go in and remove their personal belongings. I was able to do that on Friday," said Hoefer.

No one was injured in the fire.

On Monday the Bemidji Fire Department had 18 other calls for service. Since then the community has been coming together to help the displaced tenants of the building find new places to live.

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