Police officers credited with saving residents from burning Grafton apartment building

An entire apartment building community is without a place to stay because of the stubborn fire.

Police officers credited with saving residents from burning Grafton apartment building
Smoke pours out of the 10 unit apartment building along Highway 81.

GRAFTON — Residents in all 10 units of the apartment building along Highway 81 across from Hugo's are staying somewhere else after a fast moving fire early Monday morning, July 5.

It was a question Michael Smith thought about all day from his hotel room.

"How to get started all over again," he said.


Smith lost everything in the fire that started just after midnight.

"Sad my memories are gone, but I still got them in my head," he said.

Smith had just returned home from watching the fireworks in nearby Park River, and had started to doze off when he heard a bang.

"The police department was banging on the door saying you gotta get out there is a fire," he recalled.

He got outside and saw the smoke pouring from the apartment next door. Smith said he had working smoke detectors, but they hadn't gone off yet, and fears it may have been too late if the officers had not banged on the door.

Smith's mother and daughter were also asleep inside.

"They probably saved my life, I couldn't smell the smoke in my apartment," Smith explained.

Firefighters would spend the next 4 1/2 hours putting out the fire.


"When I saw flames go from one apartment to the other and through the roof, everything is loss, there's going to be nothing left," said Smith.

That wasn't quite the case. Smith surprised his daughter with something firefighters found in their burned out apartment.

"Get me my toothless stuffy, that's the only thing I want. Surprisingly they found it and it didn't smell like smoke, we threw it in the wash and it cleaned right up," said Smith.

Grafton fire chief Brad Martinson said it appears half of the 10 apartments were destroyed. Residents who live in the other half say they have smoke damage, and it's too early to tell if they will ever be able to return.

Smith said everybody just needs to keep in mind it could have been worse.

"Be happy for family and what you got, because you never know when it can be gone," said Smith.

When the Grafton fire chief was asked if fireworks may have started the fire he replied all plausible causes are still on the table until they can be ruled out.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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