NORTH SIOUX CITY, SD – A lightning strike is being blamed for starting a fire at a North Sioux City independent living center that destroyed around 20 apartments.
The fire broke out at the Northport apartments, in the 700 block of Streeter Dr., around 9 a.m. this morning.
It took fire crews from North Sioux City, Sioux City, and Sergeant Bluff about two hours to douse the flames.
North Sioux City Fire Chief, Bill Pappas, said lightning struck the building’s attic. Making the flames difficult to attack.
“The biggest problem was the fire was in the attic, so we couldn’t really get to it. We were chasing it through the top of the roofline but the whole attic was probably burning at some point and we were barely just chasing after the fire,” Pappas added.
Chief Pappas said there’s extensive damage to the complex, but he believes most units are salvageable.
While the property damage toll will likely climb, everyone was able to escape their unit and no one was hurt in the fire.
“We immediately pulled the fire alarm and ran down the halls. She took one hall and I went to the other hall to get people out because some people were still sleeping. We have several people on oxygen and elderly people, but we got everybody out,” Pappas said.
Betty Barnett said within 15 minutes everyone was evacuated from the building.
She said she didn’t think twice about making sure everyone was out, but she wishes she’d had time to grab her family pictures.
“My first thought is my pictures. You can replace everything but I have all my family pictures. I have nine grandkids, five daughters. All my family pictures in there. You can replace everything else but you can’t replace pictures and I’m still in shock because I keep thinking when I go in there I’ll get them. Well, we’re not going back in there,” Barnett said.
Resident Beverly Whitsel said she heard a loud noise but didn’t think anything of it.
“We didn’t know what was going on. I ran out and screamed at the manager. She was down the hall and she said ‘Bev, we have to get everybody out there’s a fire under the roof’ and I said oh my goodness. So I got outside and helped everybody… Just sad. I’m not going to be with all my friends. Just sad. I’ll get better. At least we all got out, that’s what we have to be thankful for,” Whitsel
The manager of north port apartments tells KCAU they’re working to get residents placed into the Stoney Creek Hotel. They’re still working out the details as to how long they’ll be there and future plans.
But, for now, if you’d like to help these displaced residents you can contact the American Red Cross.