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Fire destroys ND church white supremacist Craig Cobb was buying, no cause known

NOME, N.D. -- The Barnes County Sheriff's Office is investigating a fire that started in a church here on Wednesday afternoon, March 22.Details were not immediately available, but the sheriff's office said the North Dakota State Fire Marshal's Of...

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NOME, N.D. - A fire destroyed the former Zion Lutheran Church here Wednesday afternoon, March 22.

White supremacist Craig Cobb was listed on a recent deed as an owner of the building at 295 3rd Ave. in Nome, which is about 70 miles southwest of Fargo. Nome residents told The Forum earlier this week it didn’t appear as if Cobb had moved in yet.

Cobb has previously tried to establish white supremacist enclaves in two other North Dakota towns, including Leith, southwest of Bismarck.

The fire was reported about 3:30 p.m., according to officials. Randy Langland, a firefighter with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department who was working in Lisbon, said he arrived at the scene about 4:25 p.m. and by that time the fire had pretty much destroyed the church.

“It had been going for quite a while,” Langland said.

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He said officials have no idea how the fire started. The state fire marshal is expected to be in Nome Thursday, March 23.

RELATED: A timeline of Craig Cobb in North Dakota

All that are left of the structure are the foundation and chimney. Caution tape has been put around the structure because of fears about the unstable chimney.

Jerome Jankowski lives directly south of the church in a home that was once the parsonage.

He said he looked about 3 p.m. out of his kitchen window, which has a direct view of the church, and saw that it was on fire. Because of strong south winds, it didn’t take long for the fire to engulf the structure.

“It’s kind of sad that it goes, because it’s kind of a landmark in this town,” Jankowski said. The church was built in 1908, the same year as his house.

He said there were some rumors circulating around town about some people wanting to burn down the church so they wouldn’t have to deal with Cobb, “but maybe it was just an offhand comment.”

“First of all, it’s a church, so it’s almost sacrilegious” for this to happen, Jankowski said.

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He said no one was thrilled about the idea of Cobb moving to Nome “after that deal in Leith.”

“Everyone has some form of prejudice,” Jankowski said, “but this guy is way off the edge and he fell off.”

Jankowski told The Forum earlier this week that Alexis Wolf and then-boyfriend Kevin Richman bought the church in 2013, intending to remodel it into a home. According to Barnes County Recorder Jody Pfaff, a deed on file dated Feb. 21 that transferred ownership to Paul Cobb, also known as Craig Cobb, also lists Wolf as an owner.

Richman, who sold his portion of the deed to Cobb, said Wednesday he was surprised when he heard that fire had destroyed the church. “It was still a good structure,” said the rural Tower City resident.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Wolf declined to comment about the fire.

The Barnes County Sheriff’s Department and Fingal Fire Department also responded to the fire.

Related Topics: FIRES
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