Jesse Samsa broke down in tears as he watched firefighters inspect the apartment building he had lived in for the past three months.
As he looked at his section of the white building at 1143 Sims, now black and charred beyond repair, the Pennsylvania native living and working in Dickinson could only muster up three words.
“Pain and hurt.”
Samsa said his ex-fiance, who was living with him, woke him sometime before 7 a.m. Friday morning to alert him of the blaze. Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said a “smoking device” caused the fire but did not give details.
It not only displaced Samsa and his friend, but also the Gohil family, who had lived there for four years.
The Gohils had lived downstairs from Samsa’s apartment, but said they didn’t realize there was a fire happening above them until they smelled and saw smoke.
Anjana Gohil said her family could often hear Samsa and his girlfriend upstairs, so she didn’t think much of the early morning noise.
“I opened my window and I get the smoke,” Anjana Gohil said. “Then somebody knocked on my door.”
Omega Gohil, a DSU freshman, said she was sleeping when her mother woke her up.
“They always make noise, so we thought it was just a regular noise,” Gohil said of their upstairs neighbors. “I just ignored it. Then she (her mother, Anjana) came and said there was a fire.”
The Gohil family quickly got out of the apartment, as did Samsa and his girlfriend. Tenants of the other four apartments in the building only suffered water or smoke damage, Sivak said.
The Gohils were able to salvage some items from their apartment. Samsa said he likely lost everything, including his work tools.
Sivak said the timing of the fire helped the department extinguishing it quickly. A full-time and a volunteer firefighter were about to come off their overnight shift and two full-timers were just arriving at the station when the call came in, he said.
“We were able to get that first truck out the door almost immediately with a crew of four,” Sivak said. “That makes a heck of a difference. That makes all the difference in the world in being able to stop something like this. They got on scene as quickly as they could and they made a big hit on this thing. You don’t do that without people at the station. Response time. It’s all about response time.”
Sivak said many of the firefighters were still tired from a training session that ran late Thursday night.
“The guys are tired, but they did an outstanding job,” he said.
Anjana Gohil said her family planned to stay at the Holiday Inn Express, where she works, for a couple of days, but they have no family in the area.
Brian Shawn, the regional communications officer with the American Red Cross Dakotas Region, said his organization is assisting the building’s occupants with food, clothing and lodging, and have reached out to other residents of the building to see if they need assistance.
Messages left for the apartment building’s landlord were not returned.