Small Missouri town ‘devastated’ by wildfire Saturday

Small Missouri town ‘devastated’ by wildfire Saturday

WOOLDRIDGE, Mo. (AP) — Roughly half of a small Missouri town burned Saturday after a wildfire spread quickly from a farm field and destroyed or heavily damaged 23 buildings, officials said.

No one died and only one person was taken to a hospital for a non-life-threatening injury, but the entire town of Wooldridge had to be evacuated Saturday because of the fire that was started in a nearby field by a combine that was harvesting crops. A nearby stretch of Interstate 70 had to be closed for nearly two hours Saturday evening because heavy smoke reduced visibility so much.

Cooper County Fire District spokesman Jim Gann said Sunday that between 3,000 and 3,500 acres burned before the fire was brought under control. Firefighters were working Sunday to keep hot spots under control with strong winds forecast in the afternoon.

Wooldridge is a town of less than 100 people about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Columbia along the Missouri River. Stephen Derendinger, an engineer with the Jamestown Rural Fire Protection District, said half the town is burnt.

“It’s devastated,” Derendinger said.

Firefighters were able to save the Wooldridge Baptist Church, Wooldridge Community Club and post office as they pumped water from swimming pools to help battle the blaze.

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