Fires ravage Pierre, destroy apartment building

Firefighters in central South Dakota were forced to fight two major fires in less then 24 hours.
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 6:14 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Pierre Fire Department spent much of Thursday night and Friday morning fighting a fire at the Edgewater apartment complex in the northwest part of town.

Everyone was evacuated safely, and the building was rented as a “pet-free” property.

With pieces of their old home still scattered across the area, former residents are now forced to reckon with their new reality.

“I opened the door to the hallway,” explains Tyler Carter. “(And) I look around and don’t see anything but I could smell smoke, so I say ‘this isn’t good,’ and I run to the window and I open it. There are people on the ground telling us ‘come outside, come outside.’”

“Around 5:30, I was getting ready to cook supper,” explains Bryanna Longfox, Tyler’s girlfriend. “(And) I was doing the dishes, and then all of the sudden I hear a loud bang, I go to look out my peep-hole (on the door) and don’t see anything. I go to look again, and I see a firefighter running through the halls, and I get so scared I call Tyler, he goes out there and he looks out the windows and sees all the cops. He says ‘we have to go, we have to go right now,’ and I was like ‘what is going on?’ We had to get our daughters dressed, I barely had a blanket to put them in. As soon as we got out, you could just see the whole back building... in flames.”

Tyler, Bryanna, and their two daughters would be leaving their apartment for the last time ever.

Thirty-five of the thirty-eight available apartments in the building were occupied with tenants. Officials are calling the building a total loss. City officials say the fire was first reported at 5:30 by a neighbor of the complex, who saw a deck going up in flames.

Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul spent Friday morning at the doctor’s office, getting debris from the fire removed from his eyes. Over sixty miles per hour wind gusts put everyone on the scene in danger, especially the roughly 100 firefighters from multiple different agencies.

“The wind played a major factor on the progression of the fire and our firefighting tactics,” Paul explains. “We had a lot of debris... the fire was throwing embers, starting grass fires down the way, we had to have a crew on the hill fighting grass fires.”

Paul and firefighters in the region spent that same day fighting a grass fire near the Oahe Dam.

Carter and Longfox say that from the ground, they can see into their second-floor apartment, many of their possessions appearing relatively in-tact.

They have not heard from authorities as to when they might be able to get ahold of those items, if ever.

“I am just worried about my pictures,” says Bryanna. “All I wanted was my daughter’s pictures, my dad’s pictures, pictures of me when I was little. I don’t know if it went into my room, but if it did then they are all gone. Anything else, I could care less, I just want those pictures more than anything.”

Tyler recounts the memories from their first apartment.

“Our youngest, that is where she took her first steps, that was our first apartment together,” he explains. “We’re just going to have to try and carry on... and start over. No choice, can’t sit around,” Tyler and Bryanne agree.

Businesses and individuals in the greater Pierre area have stepped up tremendously to help residents displaced by the fire. If you are interested in helping, Oahe Federal Credit Union is taking both material and monetary donations.

Officials are still investigating what caused the fire. If you have information, you are encouraged to contact the Pierre Police Department.

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