February 10, 2020
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Fire destroys gym at Waldo County Christian camp

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
A group of people huddled in prayer Wednesday morning in front of the charred remains of the gymnasium at Fair Haven Camps in Brooks. A fire reported around 8 a.m. demolished the building at the non-profit Christian camp, but Camp Director Joshua Rose said they would rebuild.

BROOKS, Maine — A fire consumed the gymnasium at Fair Haven Camps here on Wednesday morning, with emergency responders from nine different communities working to extinguish the blaze.

Joshua Rose, the executive director of the nonprofit Christian camp, which also operates an after-school program for area youth during the school year, said that he received a phone call at about 8 a.m., telling him that there was a fire at the gym.

“By the time I got here, there were flames,” he said, while watching firefighters use their hoses on the rubble that remained of the building. Only the stone-and-brick chimney remained standing amid billows of white smoke, which fanned out against the bright blue winter sky.

Rose said that the gym was a large space, used for basketball, floor hockey, rock climbing and other activities. Campers use it on rainy days during the summer, but it is more important for the camp’s after-school program, which serves about 80 elementary and middle school students.

“This is pretty heartbreaking,” he said. “There’s nothing left.”

No one was in the building when the fire broke out, and no firefighters were injured while trying to put it out, according to Bryan Menard, the deputy chief of the Brooks Volunteer Fire Department. Crews from Monroe, Waldo, Belfast, Montville, Thorndike, Freedom, Morrill and Unity also worked at the scene of the fire, which had been reported a little after 8 a.m. Menard said it was “fully involved” by the time the first responders arrived. Officials did not know why the fire started, and the Maine fire marshal’s office has been contacted.

Fire crews first used a farm pond and then Lake Passagassawakeag, located closer to the gymnasium, to get the water to fight the blaze.

Rose, the executive director, said that the camp would rebuild. He also said that the after-school program will still be open, though not on Wednesday. Students who participate in the program do activities such as camping, ice fishing and learning to cook, but the heated gymnasium provides them with a place to run around.

“It’s an integral part to what we do,” he said. “It is going to be more difficult.”

As well, the gym held a bit of camp history. Rose attended the camp 20 years ago — it’s where he met his wife — and said that back then, some campers used to sleep in the gymnasium.

“There used to be writing where they used to stay,” he said. “It kind of breaks my heart that it’s gone.”

 


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