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Fire damages church at pioneer village

WEST FARGO — Fire damaged the historic St. John’s Lutheran Church at Bonanzaville pioneer village Saturday morning in West Fargo.

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The blaze damaged the front of the wooden building, its steeple and one of the pews inside.

West Fargo firefighters responded to two calls about smoke and fire on the church’s west side around 4:30 a.m., said West Fargo Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider.

It took firefighters hours to contain the fire, and there were still a few “hot spots” in the church’s steeple by 10 a.m, the chief said.

Reaching the steeple wasn’t easy, and Schatschneider said firefighters had to cut a hole in it with a chainsaw to spray water inside.

An investigator arrived on the site around 9 a.m., but the cause of the fire was still unknown.

The church is more than 100 years old and was originally built northwest of Horace near the turn of the 20th century.

Services were held at that site until 1967, when the remaining congregation merged with the Horace Lutheran Church and donated the St. John’s church to Bonanzaville.

It’s the cornerstone of the pioneer village and is still the site of many weddings.

Schatschneider said the fire extended only 10 to 15 feet into the church’s west side, and only one pew was heavily damaged. The rest of the church’s inside area sustained only smoke and water damage, he said.

It appeared the fire had started on the main floor, but the fire chief said that could change as the investigation unfolds.

Schatschneider said he couldn’t put a dollar amount on the damages but added that he was surprised the fire didn’t do more to the old building.

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