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Cause of apartment fire is still unknown

‘Once we got to the fire hall, you could see it already was pretty active’

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The ongoing effects of an apartment building fire in Hankinson are still being felt as apartment residents had their homes destroyed through smoke damage or when firemen had to make holes in walls and ceilings to attack the blaze.

The cause of this Tuesday, Sept. 24 fire has not been determined, said Hankinson Fire Chief Erik Steinwehr.

Eleven people were inside the apartments on the upper level of the 100-year-old Post’s Hardware building in downtown Hankinson when the smoke detectors started to sound. Eight got out, but three others were trapped on the second floor, said Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht. One-by-one, firefighters plucked the three people from an upstairs window — including an elderly woman and an amputee.

Post Hardware is directly beneath the apartments and is still not open. Owners Jeremy and Jill Post do not have any idea when it will reopen, they said.

Hankinson Fire Department responded just after 9  p.m. to find flames engulfing the back of the building.

“Once we got to the fire hall, you could see it already was pretty active,” Steinwehr said.

Nine area fire departments responded to the blaze, filling three sides of the 300 block along Main Avenue, while dozens of firemen attacked the fire.

Anxious nearby business owners stood across the street watching to see if the fire spread. This entire block of Main Avenue shares common walls, so there is no separation between Hankinson Insurance, GEOthermal Solutions Inc. and Hankinson Drug Store. Steinwehr said a cursory walk-through of each building showed that only Post Hardware sustained any damage.

No injuries to residents or firefighters were reported, he said.

The state fire marshal was expected to continue his work until Thursday, Sept. 26, Steinwehr said.

Responding agencies also included Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Hankinson Ambulance and fire departments from Lidgerwood, Barney, Fairmount, Dwight, Great Bend, Wahpeton, Mooreton and Mantador.

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