Woman Arrested in Wahpeton Apartment Fire
A woman has been arrested after an apartment fire in Wahpeton leaves nearly 30 people without a home.
Yolanda Thinn is facing charges of arson, hindering law enforcement and resisting arrest.
Thinn was arrested early this morning after firefighters knocked down flames at the Wahpeton Community Homes.
People who live there say some have lost everything.
Brendan Williams, who’s been living at the Community Homes for nine years, says he was awake when his neighbors came pounding on his door around 1:40 a.m.
Williams describes, “I went outside and there was people all over the place. I looked up, there was smoke pouring out of the building. I came around this side, I see flames coming out. The next thing I know, the fire trucks roll up and maybe 20 minutes later it was out. We got on scene.”
“There was pretty good panic going on with lots of heavy smoke coming from the building from one main apartment, filling the whole building with smoke. We had people trapped in the building because the halls were filled with smoke so we had to take them out by second and third floors by ladders,” says Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht.
Firefighters had to use those ladders to rescue two adults and three children as that side of the building became engulfed in flames.
The Wahpeton fire chief says the fire may have started on a mattress in the bedroom of apartment 41.
Survivors suffered from smoke inhalation but no serious injuries were reported.
“The police department, we’re trying to get a hold of them to get a clear picture of whether we can allow any others back into the other half. But we have to get the power on,” says Five Star Services Inc. President Chuck Hendricks.
Damage assessments are being done right now to determine if tenants can start moving back at least into the east side of the building.
The building is divided in the middle by a firewall.
Smoke filled the west side of the building whereas the east is said to have minor damages.
But for one tenant who lives on the east part of the building, he just wants to be able to go back home.
Williams adds, “Yeah, I’d just like to be able to get back into my apartment to feed them and take care of them.”
Williams is talking about Betty and Max, his two beloved cats, who are still in the apartment.
While he’s worried about the well-being of his cats, if the apartment doesn’t clear up in the next few days, it’s his own well-being he’ll have to worry about.
“They were nice enough to put us up, they said for two days. I don’t know what’s going to happen after that if it takes longer than that. I don’t really have any family here or anything,” says Williams.
Property owners say they hope to relocate tenants into other units.
Tenants are temporarily staying at the AmericInn Lodge & Suites.
Authorities have not made an official statement on Thinn’s arrest, but say the chief will comment more on the suspect tomorrow after further investigation.