Photo albums survive Grand Forks Hotel fire

Three photo albums belonging to Grand Forks Hotel fire survivor Jeffery "Sparkplug" Thomas weren't destroyed by the early-March blaze.

Jeff 'Sparky' Thomas saw some priceless photo albums returned to him recently. They were thought to be lost during the Grand Forks Hotel Fire.

Jeff 'Sparky' Thomas saw some priceless photo albums returned to him recently. They were thought to be lost during the Grand Forks Hotel Fire.

Photo albums were found undamaged in the wreckage of the Grand Forks Hotel during a clean up session last week.

During the removal of the charred remains of the Grand Forks Hotel, a machine operator made the discovery and determined the albums belonged to resident Jeffrey “Sparky” Thomas.

Thomas was the one who woke up residents in the Grand Forks Hotel and managed to get everyone out of the burning building on the morning of March 7.

“They’re in really good condition considering what they went through,” explained Gary Trent, a friend of Thomas. “All of the photographs were his mom’s photographs, wedding photographs and all sorts of stuff even newspaper clippings when his mom used to work with handicapped children.”

The albums were not burnt or damaged.

Apparently the albums were in a box with miscellaneous items on top.

When the fire occurred, the box must have fallen through the floor and was protected when other items fell on top of the box.

The albums were found by a machine operator who was working at the far northwest end of the building, where Thomas’ room was located.

“Upon digging in the rubble the machine had a load with something very unusual in it,” explained Trent. “The operator got out of his machine to see what was so unusual he had just dug up in his front-end loader. He noticed a little pile of books amongst the rubble.

He salvaged them and went on with his work.”

It wasn’t until later the operator took his break and look through the books.

“As he looked through albums he thought that he recognized a few people in the pictures,” Trent continued. “Being a small town he seemed to recognize Jeff in some of the photos and immediately had him contacted to tell of his findings. When Jeff (Thomas) arrived on the scene you can imagine the delight that filled his heart.”

Thomas was thrilled by the find, as the albums belonged to his mother, Dorothy, who passed away two years ago.

“You know Mom didn’t leave us kids much but she did make sure I got her photo albums,” Thomas recalled. “After the fire I was so dismayed that her albums burnt and I felt so bad about that. It was my biggest loss.”

Though yellowed with age, all three photo albums managed to survive the fire in good condition.

“Imagine the heat of that fire and all the water they poured on the building and these albums survived,” Thomas said.

Though Thomas had originally thought he lost everything in the fire, the photo albums managed to survive unscathed.

The Grand Forks Hotel was destroyed during an early morning fire on March 7.