People in the tiny Francophone community of St. Georges, 140 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, said they have lost a big piece of their history, after an early morning fire heavily damaged their local museum.

st georges museum fire

The museum in St. Georges contained many artifacts from the community's French roots. (St. Georges website)

Diane Dube, who speaks for the museum, said the fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. Saturday and burned for a couple of hours before crews were able to put it out. 

St georges museum fire

The St. Georges Museum was dedicated to preserving the community's Francophone roots. (Louis-Philippe Leblanc/CBC)

She said it's too soon to know what the cause was, but RCMP and insurance adjusters were on scene Saturday morning. 

The community's website says the museum "houses an impressive collection of Franco-Manitoban antiques and artifacts which documents life in the local area over many generations."

CBC reporter Louis-Philippe Leblanc said the smell of smoke still hung in the air and people were emotional as they gathered at the site Saturday while workers tried to retrieve as many artifacts as possible from the rubble. 

He said many of them had donated articles to the museum and were saddened to realize they had lost part of their own personal history, as well as that of the community. 

Leblanc said the museum was managed by the community and run by volunteers who are stunned by the loss.