Sunset Bluffs Apartment Fire: one year later

Sunset Bluffs Apartment fire
Sunset Bluffs Apartment fire(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 8:32 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - One year ago, a devastating fire left more than 40 families homeless at the Sunset Bluffs Apartments in Mandan and authorities want to make sure it never happens again.

All that remains of the former Sunset Bluffs Apartment building is a concrete pad and wires.

“Eleven, engine 12, engine 21 and ladder 14 please respond for a structure fire, flames are coming from the top of the building,” radioed a Central Dakota Communications dispatcher.

Former residents told Your News Leader without the community's support, rebuilding would've been close to impossible.

“I didn’t know that we would have so much people in the community coming to help. I thought that I was just on my own,” said former Sunset Bluffs resident Briana Huack.

For Mandan Battalion Chief Jonathan Hildermyr it was one of the biggest fires he can remember in his career.

“When I left home, I could see the column [of smoke] so I knew we were going to be in for something for quite a while,” said Chief Hildermyr.

Crews quickly ran out of water, because the privately owned fire hydrants weren’t working at the time.

Since that historic fire, Hildermyr said the fire department started a program to ensure the more than 140 privately owned hydrants in the city, are up to code.

“We need someone to maintain the private (hydrants) so if we were to end up in a need for one such as a year ago today,” said Chief Hildermyr.

According to Chief Hildermyr, crews so far have found five hydrants that weren’t operating correctly, all of which have been fixed.

The Mandan Fire Department said last August the Sunset Bluffs fire was possibly started by someone “improperly discarding smoking materials.”

City commissioners updated the building code to require an overhang of more than six inches to have a sprinkler head.

Mandan’s fire chief said vehicles now carry extra water bottles since 11 firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion while responding last year.

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