‘It was gut-wrenching’ Wooldridge starts cleanup after fire burned down half the village

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WOOLDRIDGE, Mo. – A small town in Cooper County started the recovery process after a massive brush fire on Saturday burned down more than 3,000 acres, displacing dozens.

On Saturday afternoon, 70 mph winds took a fire that started in a neighboring field and quickly spread to homes.

The fire eventually burned down half the village of 35 people. The Cooper County Fire Protection District estimated up to 3,500 acres burned before crews from 50 different fire departments around the state were able to contain the fire.

“The future of Woolridge is up in the air… It was already such a small community,” said Megan Gillispie, a Wooldridge resident. “I think, unfortunately, it might get even smaller.”

Gillispie’s home was spared after the fire stopped just feet away from her front door. Firefighters had to break down her back door to rescue the family’s two dogs. Luckily, her 6-month-old baby was not at home.

“I left her baby blanket out here, and there’s an ember mark on her baby blanket right now,” Gillispie said. “I mean that’s the definition of too close to home.”

A church on the corner of the neighborhood was still standing.

“I grew up in this church, my family has all been very active and had roles in this church,” said Alexis Nixon, a clerk for the Wooldridge Board of Trustees. “I got married in this church. It’s an emotional thing, it’s like losing a family member, but it’s not lost. It was gut-wrenching.

The community members saved the pews and piano. The rest will have to be ripped out and redone from scratch.

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