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Tri-County firefighters save Beulah Baptist Church Monday afternoon
RICHLAND, Mo. (March 26, 2009) — Quick action by overworked firefighters likely saved the Beulah Baptist Church north of Richland from destruction on Monday afternoon.

Members of the Tri-County Rural Fire Protection District spent most of Monday racing around their region putting out fires in the underbrush or helping firefighters in neighboring districts do the same, but at 2:55 p.m., firefighters responding to a natural cover fire on Highway 7 about three miles north of Richland reported something considerably more serious.

“Upon arrival (firefighters on) my first engine realized the back of the church had caught on fire and it was a door to a storage unit underneath the church; my officer got on the radio and hollered to me that the church was on fire,” said Tri-County Fire Chief Rick Hobbs. “The crews on the engine did a quick knockdown and got the door at the back of the church put out.”

Getting the fire in the church’s back yard put out took much longer and firefighters remained on the scene until after 5 p.m., though some Tri-County firefighters diverted to respond to a 4:40 p.m. crash of a 1995 Saturn five miles south of Richland on Highway 7.

“It started out as a natural cover fire, and with the winds gusting to 30 to 40 mph, it didn’t take it long to be up to the church,” Hobbs said. “With further investigation, we had two other structures in danger. A little camper trailer had burned, but then we got a line around (the fire) and got it stopped.”

Damage to the church was minor, Hobbs said, and was mostly confined to the wooden door to the storage unit. The contents of the storage unit did not catch on fire, he said, and since the back part of the church is a gym added into the church with metal walls, exterior damage appears to be confined to blackening of the walls. The building sustained no structural damage, he said.

Hobbs said the fire had quickly raced across a cemetery from land owned by another person behind the church, but it’s not clear that the other property owner had anything to do with the blaze.

“The property owner had burned some brush piles on the Saturday before but he said they were out. With the way the wind was blowing, who knows, it could have flared up,” Hobbs said.

Fifteen Tri-County firefighters responded with two engines, a mini-pumper and two brush trucks, Hobbs said. The Crocker and Hazelgreen districts each responded with three firefighters on a brush truck; Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics responded but were released soon after firefighters determined the blaze hadn’t spread to the inside of the church.

No law enforcement personnel were called to the blaze, Hobbs said, since it’s not considered suspicious.

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