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It took volunteer firefighters several hours to douse a fire at the Museum of the Highwood. (John Spittal/CBC)

An early morning fire has damaged a museum in High River, Alta. and some of the prairie artifacts it housed.

Volunteer firefighters from the town, as well as Blackie and Okotoks, responded to the fire at the Museum of the Highwood, south of Calgary, at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

It took crews several hours to extinguish the blaze in the former Canadian Pacific Railway station.

"It appears the fire started on the outside of the building and made its way up to the attic and roof area," said Len Zebedee, High River's fire chief.

Artifacts on the main floor, which outline the history of the Highwood River basin, are believed to have suffered smoke and water damage.

"Luckily, some of the collection is currently stored off-site due to limited space at the museum," said town manager Harry Harker in a news release. "We will have to wait until we can get inside to assess the extent of the damage to the artifacts as well as the structural damage to the building itself."

Experts from Calgary's Glenbow Museum will be helping museum staff restore and preserve the artifacts, said Doug Munn, director of community services.