Duluth apartment fire survivors describe harrowing experience

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Following Saturday’s fatal fire in the Hillside neighborhood that claimed the lives of two residents, victims are now speaking out about how they are picking up the pieces of their lives after this harrowing experience.

According to authorities this incident is the third fatal fire in four years at the same apartment complex.

Many tenants now find themselves displaced. WDIO spoke to survivors from this recent incident and another person who lost her fiancé in the 2020 fire.

Trent Sampson lived in one of the first floor apartments and he describes the harrowing moment.

“I just woke up and I, you know. I heard a distant alarm. I was thinking maybe it’s my phone alarm. I grabbed my phone, and then when I walked out of my bedroom, there was instant heat and I could see the smoke. So I looked over to my right and there was a fire in my doorway. So I mean, my body pretty much took over”

Nichole Swanson lost her fiancé Michael R. Simone in the 2020 fire, she had survived the fire because she was not home that night. She describes the moment she got the tragic news.

“It was surreal. It was very surreal. It felt like I was, like, in a dream and I was just kind of like floating through it. It was very, very odd. It was like so much shock and so much emotion and so much denial that your brain’s trying to tell you no.”

She also added that Michael and herself were about starting a family together when this disaster struck.

“When Michael passed away, we had just found out that I was pregnant, and we had been trying for a while. We had a couple miscarriages before then, he was so happy. But unfortunately, with all the stress, I lost our baby and I will have done anything to have a peace of Michael with me in this world.”

Trent says he wasn’t aware of the past fires until after moving in and now he has lost everything.

“I’m just living in my car right now. Like I said, my business was there, I’m looking at apartments, obviously, and stuff like that, cause I’m not going to be living back there, you know, So but I mean, pretty much just trying to pick everything back up where I left off as much as I can. It’s crazy. Like in a split second, no one realizes that everything can be gone. You know, like your whole life.”

He has now opened a GoFundMe page to restart his life.

WDIO also reached out to the owner of the building, we wanted to ask him about the multiple fires at his building over the past four years. We had not heard from back from him as at the time this news was published.