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Bucyrus cleanup continues in wake of fire

Bucyrus was caught in a wildfire Wednesday that left 24 structures burnt.

A devastating fire may have destroyed much of Bucyrus this week, but the blaze should not affect its standing as a North Dakota city.

"I think it will always be a city," Adams County Commission Chairman Chuck Christman said. "It is incorporated and I think they have to request to be unincorporated."

Cleanup in the aftermath of the fire that swept over about 6,000 acres and destroyed 24 structures this week continued Friday.

Four occupied homes were burned to the ground after residents were evacuated. The cause is unknown and fire marshals continued investigating Friday.

There were no major injuries -- the worst came from smoke, dust, ash and embers blowing.

Any plans for Bucyrus are on hold until insurance agents can assess the damage and let residents know their options, Christman said.

"We just don't know what we can and cannot do as far as the insurance companies will allow us to do anything," he said.

Some trees will soon be removed, but otherwise no decisions will be made without the affected individuals, Christman said.

The Bucyrus Lutheran Church was left nearly untouched by the blaze. Though there won't be services at the church Sunday, Bishop Mark Narum of the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Bismarck plans to visit parishioners at the church in Bucyrus Tuesday afternoon.

"I can only imagine what it feels like to look around and see the devastation caused by this fire," Narum said. "I'm from a small community and this is when North Dakota is at its best, when we come together as people and help each other out."

The self-described town historian, Mary Rowley, lives a few miles north of Bucyrus and has been a member of the church for 20 years.

"There are about 12 families that attend our church," Rowley said. "It's really amazing that the church wasn't damaged in the fire. We've had declining membership for a while, so I don't know what the future will be for our church."

Keeping eyes on the area

Hettinger Fire Chief Mark Faller was one of a handful of firefighters monitoring the situation Friday.

"We're pretty much in the cleanup stage now," Faller said. "There are a couple of areas that are still smoldering, but the fire is basically out."

Two abandoned farmsteads were the biggest rural losses. There was another farm that was threatened, as was a rural bed and breakfast, but the efforts of firefighters and local farmers kept the flames away, Christman said.

"The efforts there were nothing short of heroic," he said. "From all the volunteer firemen, from all the farmers that were there -- there were upwards of 20 outfits with discs on them around there -- it's hard to guess how many firemen were there, people on the line, fighting the fires."

There were no crops or livestock lost, Christman said. The fire even skipped over a hay field.

"All the crops were harvested," he said. "As far as we know, not even any hay was lost."

Faller said the Reeder Fire Department had three units in Bucyrus and that a number of residents were in town, though power was not expected to return to Bucyrus until late in the day Friday.

Montana-Dakota Utilities spokesman Mark Hanson said some customers had power back Thursday and that all remaining homes were expected to have power by sometime Friday night.

"We really appreciate the effort that the firemen -- they're all volunteer firemen -- the ranchers, farmers, we want to thank them whole-heartedly," Christman said.

Establishing a victims' fund

"The biggest thing is trying to help these people try to find funding for them right now through emergency (funds)," Christman said. "Just to have money to live on for a while and then they will have to make up their plans as to whether they're going to rebuild or move."

A fund for victims of the fire has been set up by Dakota Plains Federal Credit. Dakota Plains President/CEO Peter Butterfield said there had been a lot of interest in the fund as of Friday morning.

"It was just set up on Thursday, so it's still very early, but we've gotten feedback from all over the Dakotas and from many other places," Butterfield said. "We've also established a pool of $50,000 for low-interest loans that will be available to those affected."