Man dies in south Fargo apartment fire; smoke alarms in building reportedly didn't go offFARGO – An early Sunday morning fire left one man dead and others wondering if more could have been done to prevent the loss.
By: John Lamb, INFORUM
FARGO – An early Sunday morning fire left one man dead and others wondering if more could have been done to prevent the loss.
James Peyton, 31, was pronounced dead at Essentia Health after smoke filled his apartment and the halls outside the Ashbury Apartments at 4345 10th Ave. S., Fargo.
The Fargo Fire Department answered a 12:41 a.m. call reporting smoke in the halls of the building.
The first engine arrived five minutes later and discovered a kitchen fire in Peyton’s first-floor apartment. The fire was knocked down within minutes, and FM Ambulance took Peyton to Essentia, where he was pronounced dead from apparent smoke inhalation.
Lisa Anderson, who lived up the stairs and across the hall from Peyton, made the first 911 call.
“The stench was so bad I smelled it in my bedroom, in the back corner of my apartment,” Anderson said Sunday evening.
She first checked to see if it was something in her apartment, then opened the door to check the halls. After getting dressed, she walked downstairs.
“As soon as I went around the corner, the haze and smoke just hit me in the eyes and it stung bad … It burned my eyes it was so bad,” Anderson said. “I knew something bad was going on.”
She called 911 and walked through the “thick” smoke close to Peyton’s door and made out the sound of a smoke detector.
“It was a real faint, distinct sound,” Anderson said.
A press release from the fire department said it appeared “only a limited number of smoke detectors were in place, which may have contributed to delayed fire discovery.”
“I’m surprised these things didn’t get tripped,” Anderson said, gesturing to fire alarms in the hall, adding that the smoke alarms in the building didn’t go off.
Anderson said she didn’t try to open Peyton’s door or knock. When she went back upstairs, she tried pulling the fire alarm, but was shaking too much.
“I was scared, very confused,” she said, adding that she figured the firefighters would do that when they arrived. Firefighters evacuated the building, including Anderson and her 6-year-old daughter. Tenants were able to return to their apartments a short time later.
Anderson said her apartment still smelled Sunday evening.
“That stench is going to be there for a while,” she said.
Anderson said Peyton had a roommate named Jason who was not home at the time of the fire. On Sunday evening she said Jason was on his way to Illinois to plan Peyton’s funeral. According to Peyton’s Facebook page, he graduated from school in Champaign, Ill.
“He was a really nice guy,” Anderson said of Peyton. “He’d sit outside his apartment and smoke and wave at people even if he didn’t know them. He never judged anyone.”
Charred contents from inside the apartment now rest on that patio where Peyton would sit, smoke and greet people.
Anderson said a window on the east side of Peyton’s apartment, now covered with boards, was where Peyton’s bedroom was.
The fire appears to have started in the kitchen but is under investigation with help from the Fargo Police Department, the North Dakota Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The Moorhead Fire Department also helped fight the blaze.
A manager of the building directed questions to Goldmark Property Management Inc., but no one was in the office Sunday.
Outside the door to Peyton’s apartment, Anderson left a bouquet of flowers.
“It’s really sad. I feel bad. He wasn’t that old of a guy,” Anderson said. “I’ve been crying and confused.
“Had I rushed downstairs quicker, would that five minutes made a difference?”
While some in the building are crediting her for saving other lives and other apartments, she said it’s hard to take credit.
“I don’t feel like a hero when someone dies,” she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533