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Dining hall destroyed in Sunday blaze in Pa.

October 13, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - The dining hall of a Washington Township, Pa., summer camp was destroyed by fire early Sunday and another building was heavily damaged, according to Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue Chief John Fleagle.

Franklin County emergency communications reported that the fire at Capital Camps, 12811 Old Route 16, was dispatched at 2:22 a.m.

"When we got there, we adopted a defensive attack," Fleagle said. "We had written the dining hall off."

Fighting the fire was made more dangerous by three propane tanks behind the dining hall that caught fire, Fleagle said.

"All three were on fire and they self-vented," Fleagle said. "When they get to a certain temperature, they are designed to release the pressure."

The flammable gas escaping from the tanks caused a lot of fire, but they did not explode, Fleagle said.

Fleagle said firefighters did go inside a two-story wood-frame building just 10 or 15 feet from the dining hall, but it also sustained heavy damage. Lt. Lloyd Emswiler of the Leitersburg fire company said the building had heavy fire damage to its roof and back wall.

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Fleagle said that building may have to be torn down.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Stanford Sydnor, Fleagle said. He had no estimate on the dollar value of the damage.

Emswiler said companies from Thurmont and Emmitsburg in Frederick County, Md., responded to the fire, as did units from Leitersburg, Smithsburg and Longmeadow in Washington County.

Fleagle said Pennsylvania companies from Waynesboro, Mont Alto, Greencastle, New Franklin and Fountaindale also assisted the Blue Ridge firefighters, as did the Air 10 unit. Two emergency medical services units also went to the scene, but Fleagle said there were no injuries to firefighters or anyone else.

The camp was unoccupied except for a caretaker, Fleagle said. He said the fire took about an hour and a half to bring under control.

There was extensive overhaul and cleanup at the site and the last units left the scene just before 9 a.m., according to Fleagle.

Fleagle said water was not an issue because there were two fire hydrants in the area.

The camp's answering machine said the camp is closed for the winter. A message to the camp's facilities manager was not returned.

The facility is in the midst of a $13 million redevelopment project, camp officials previously said. The camp was built in the 1920s by Morgan Levy. Capital Camps bought the 267-acre facility in 1986. It caters to about 600 children every summer from the Jewish communities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in grades three to 10. Children spend an average of two to four weeks there in the summer, officials said.

Capital Camps, a nonprofit organization, has 11 full-time employees including two to three who work at the camp year-round.

It was the second major fire in the Blue Ridge Summit area in two months. An Aug. 12 fire at the National Book Network distribution center destroyed thousands of books in a 100,000-square-foot warehouse at the center.

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