Manitoba fire officials are warning people to be careful when burning anything this weekend, after an unattended fire in a barrel burned down the 110-year-old United Church building in Starbuck, Man., on Friday.

Fire crews were called to Starbuck, a community about 40 kilometres west of Winnipeg, shortly after 1 p.m.

church starbuck fire

Firefighters douse what is left of the United Church in Starbuck after fire broke out Friday. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Resident Dan Gargan watched as firefighters battled the flames, but he wasn't optimistic the century-old building would survive. 

"It's going pretty darn good, that's for sure," he said Friday afternoon.

"They are not going to save it, as far as I can tell at this …. There is a lot of smoke out of the roof of the church, you know, to the bell tower and stuff."

Mike Siemens, the fire chief with the Rural Municipality of Macdonald, said crews found grass burning on the north side of the property, with the flames extending to a garden shed and creeping up the north side of the church.

"It appeared that some of the neighbours had been burning some garbage or rubble," Siemens said.

Crews used water from the La Salle River, but were unable to save the building.

Late in the evening, the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner said an "unattended fire from a barrel spread to nearby buildings," consuming the church as well as the nearby garden shed.

Homes to the north and south of the church sustained minor exterior damage, according to officials.

The fire commissioner's office pegs total damages at about $650,000.

Residents told CBC News they were saddened to lose so much history.

Among the losses were costumes from a dinner theatre production the community has put on for 25 years, they said.

Siemens said the church has been a fixture in the rural community.

"They grew up with this church, the building is definitely been a big part of the community," he said.

"They experienced a major loss, but luckily nobody was hurt."

The fire commissioner's office is reminding all Manitobans to prevent grass fires by making sure any burning is done in low wind conditions and containing any burning area.