A raging wildfire on Saturday (Oct. 22) swept into Wooldridge, Missouri, destroying homes, buildings and severely damaging the Wooldridge Baptist Church’s building.
This Cooper County village is a community of about 40 residents. The fire started in a nearby grain field, which was reportedly ignited by a malfunctioning combine. Pastor J. Wayne Merrill estimated that about 15 homes were destroyed by the fast moving fire. As of Sunday (Oct. 23), officials said seven families were in a shelter set up in a Baptist church building in rural Booneville. Authorities reported 20–25 buildings were burned or destroyed.
Gaylon Moss, director of Missouri Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, visited with families on Sunday morning to offer assistance.
Damage to the church
While Wooldridge Baptist Church was damaged, officials report the fire was mostly confined to the floor of the building. The building had extensive water damage to walls and ceilings.
Firefighters were able to quickly remove the stained glass windows in the church building in order to protect them. Pastor Merrill said he believes the general structure of the church building is still intact and can be repaired. He was hopeful it will not be a total loss.
The church, which draws about 15 people for worship, is still determining where they will meet for services on Sunday (Oct. 30), Merrill said. They have options with several nearby churches, he noted, and possibly they could meet in a church member’s home in the town.
Alan Earls, director of missions for Concord Baptist Association, noted the church is a historic building. The church was established in 1900 and the building was completed in 1905, according to the association’s records.