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Governor praises first responders to Wooldridge fire; says no one to blame

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WOOLDRIDGE, Mo. (KMIZ)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday praised firefighters, the highway patrol and other first responders and said he's thankful no lives were lost in the wildfire that ripped through a Cooper County village over the weekend.

Parson flew into Wooldridge via helicopter to survey the damage from the air before speaking with local officials and reporters after walking through the small village of about 30 people.

Wooldridge was heavily damaged by a wildfire that burned more than 3,000 acres Saturday. Investigators are looking into whether a combine somehow started the fire amid drought conditions and high winds. About two dozen buildings were burned.

Parson spoke outside the damaged Wooldridge Community Center. Other state officials and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler joined him.

Parson responded to a question about whether tall grass around the village -- which is bounded by farm fields and a conservation area -- might have contributed to the fire's quick spread by saying high grass is a given in rural Missouri.

Combined with drought, it can create conditions ripe for fire, especially if farm equipment malfunctions, he said.

“It’s kind of where we live," Parson said. "I don’t know that anybody’s to blame for any of that. It’s just part of it.”

The wind conditions, about 45 mph, were "unreal," Parson said.

He said the disaster is unlikely to meet the threshold to get federal assistance but the state and private organizations will try to step in to help them with their needs.

"It could have been even worse," Hartzler said as she commended the community and first responders.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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