‘The fire was right here’: Chateau, Amphitheatre untouched after close call from Medora blaze

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People from all over come to North Dakota for the Medora experience.

Thursday’s wildfire almost jeopardized one of its most beloved and well-known landmarks.

The Burning Hills Amphitheatre is one of North Dakota’s treasures — and it came inches away from being destroyed by flames.

“We were very anxious, and as you can see we’re standing in the theater. We’re going to be able to operate. The theater itself is basically untouched. But you can walk a few feet from the theater and the fire was right here,” said Medora Foundation President Randy Hatzenbuhler.

The theater is home to the Medora Musical, which welcomes up to 120,000 guests a year.

The show and town play a huge role in the state’s tourism dollars each summer.

Hatzenbuhler says there has been non-stop support and prayers for the community.

“Medora is a really interesting place. People love it,” he said.

Fire crews worked around the clock to prevent flames from entering the structure.

Through the night into Friday, crews were still working to contain hot spots to make sure nothing reignited.

“Local fire departments and Forest Service are just watching the entire area, and we’re just lending a helping hand wherever can to help them,” said Medora Foundation CFO Clarence Sitter.

Sitter was one of many who were on sight when the flames reached the border of the amphitheatre — and that’s when he sprung into action to help the community he’s called home for nine years, in any way possible.

“We have several employees that live out at the campground on the west side of town and several that live in town. So we went door to door to help notify them and help evacuate them so they can get out of there and be safe,” said Sitter.

And as the community returned after being evacuated, they couldn’t be any happier to see it still standing tall.

“There were fire departments from all over the country helping to save the town of Medora and the history of North Dakota as well. Seeing the Chateau standing this morning is about…beautifullest thing I’ve seen in a long time,” said Bill Palnuk, with the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The town of Medora sees about 250,000 visitors a year, not including those who go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park right next door.

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