Pine Springs Ranch Staffer Loses
Home, Possessions in Forest Fire
Campers evacuated, property safe so far (Posted July 19, 2013)
BY GERRY CHUDLEIGH
, Pacific Union Conference communication director
ll campers, staff and animals are safe after they quickly evacuated from Pine Springs Ranch, the Southeastern California Conference youth camp and conference center, shortly before a forest fire swept through the camp this past Monday night and Tuesday, July 15-16.
According to camp director Carmen Ibañez, the 124 junior campers and 55 staff members escaped from the camp with only the clothes they were wearing. They were hosted Monday night by the Hemet Seventh-day Adventist Church.
By Tuesday noon the last campers had been returned to their parents, and staff members had found temporary housing in nearby homes. On Tuesday, Ibañez and Tim Rawson, associate treasurer of the conference, were given a quick ride through the camp on a fire truck, but they were told they would probably not be admitted to the property again until Friday, due to continued fires.
“We lost several structures, but we are just thankful that everyone is safe,” said Sandra Roberts, executive secretary of the conference.
The evacuation was so quick that neither camp staff nor the county animal control people were able to evacuate the 25 horses or the animals in the camp nature center, but all the animals were found in good condition Tuesday morning when the county animal control people entered the camp.
The biggest personal loss was the house occupied by the facility manager, Fritz Wuttke, his wife and two teen sons. Their home burned to the ground with everything they owned.
Other structures destroyed included the camp store, the maintenance building, and the multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant. Several other buildings were damaged, including the Town Hall and staff houses, but the largest buildings on the property – the 80-room lodge, the dining room and kitchen, the multi-purpose building and the camper cabins -- were not damaged.
Roberts says they will assess the damage after the fire ends and they are admitted back into the camp, but she expects it will be some time before the camp is operational again.
“We are thankful to God for a wonderful camp staff … thankful to God the campers are all safe ... and thankful even though the camp was in the direct path of the fire we did not have more damage,” Roberts said. “We are grateful for the fire fighters and responders who have worked so hard to save the property and been so compassionate to us.”
For ongoing updates, or to make a donation to help rebuild the camp, go to http://fundly.com/support-pine-springs-ranch