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Wooldridge begins recovery after weekend fire


The small town of Wooldridge is recovering from a Saturday brush fire that burned down homes and businesses.

Representatives from the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency toured the town Monday to assess the damage and compile a report for the governor's office. The shells of burnt cars and the remains of people's homes could be seen while walking down Main Street.

Wooldrige Mayor Kelly Murphy said after the tour that SEMA representatives took notes and forwarded emails detailing what to do next and provided resources to people and organizations that can help.

"Devastation," Murphy said. "There is nothing there. They've lost everything. We had two people that needed to be rescued from their houses because they were asleep. It happened so quick."

The fire tore through the community of about 60 people Saturday evening, burning more than 3,000 acres. About two dozen buildings suffered severe damage. Officials are investigating whether a combine in a field could have sparked the Cooper County blaze, which was fueled by extremely dry vegetation.

Charred washing machines, sinks and stoves could be seen sitting in the middle of what was once people's homes.

"Our community is strong," Murphy said. "We've had many people contact us, many people drive down, and donations have been given."

The Wooldridge Baptist Church and the Community Center were two buildings that many feared would be damaged by the fires. Luckily, the damage was not as severe as other areas of the town.

A ServPro representative said the church has more damage inside than outside. ServPro is a company that specializes in fire and flood restoration and cleaning.

"The floors will need to be replaced," Rebecca Davis said. "Along with that, so will pews and the ceiling. Firefighters were able to prevent the church from being a complete loss."

The Community Center -- which is across the street -- was untouched.

ServPro has officials in town providing outreach and education to residents for clean-up and rebuilding.

"One of the biggest things is soot and smoke damage," Davis said. "Even the people who haven't been directly impacted by the fire still have things that need to be cleaned and addressed."

Alexis Nixon -- the clerk for Wooldridge Board of Trustees -- has lived in the town all her life.

"One thing I don't think people realize is this town isn't just residents, it's a community," Nixon said. "All the people who live, locally, came flooding into town looking to help. Even if they don't live here, it's still their town."

According to her, there are still bright spots in these dark times.

"It's just like I said," Nixon said. "Community is everything. People are helping each other out, even those that don't know each other are looking to help. There is still hope."

Article Topic Follows: Cooper

Ethan Heinz


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