Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie
GILBOA — While an intense fire that destroyed the large kitchen and dining building at a girls’ summer camp in South Gilboa Wednesday afternoon remains under investigation, its origin is not believed to be suspicious.
While the cause and original investigation of the fire at The Zone camp has been turned over to the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Schoharie County Director of Emergency Services Michael Hartzel said it was not believed to be suspicious. The blaze started in the kitchen area.
While the fire was restricted to the wooden kitchen-dining building, it completely leveled it. “I would say it’s a total loss,” Hartzel said.
Crews from 17 fire companies either responded or were on standby, and five emergency squads responded to the fire, Hartzell said. Water was taken from a pond on site, and also trucked in.
Because of the location of the camp in a remote corner of the northern Catskills — not far from the Schoharie Dam that impounds a New York City reservoir — the volunteer crews came from nearby communities in Schoharie, Delaware and Greene counties.
The Middleburgh Fire Department sent a ladder truck, needed since the building was so large. Hartzel said one of the reasons so many companies were called was the low daytime staffing levels in rural volunteer fire companies. The emergency squads assisted firefighters in dealing with 90-degree heat, even though nobody was injured.
“It’s a hot day in summer, so they did rehab for them,” Hartzel said.
The fire was reported about 1:30 p.m., and Hartzel said that firefighters remained on the scene until about 10:30 p.m.
Crews fought the fire from inside the building initially, but were pulled out when the flames were “sucked up” through a vent and spread to the attic, quickly engulfing the entire building, a firefighter told the Oneonta Daily Star newspaper at the scene.
“We could knock it down at times, but it traveled so fast, it was impossible to keep up with,” Grand Gorge firefighter Collin Oliver told the paper.
The girls’ camp is operated by Oorah, a New Jersey-based Orthodox Jewish group that also operates a separate boys’ camp a few miles away.
The camps, collectively known as the Oorah Catskill Retreat, have been cited numerous times by the Schoharie County Health Department for violating state coronavirus restrictions that prohibit the operation of overnight camps.
A banner covering the camp’s welcome sign declared that “the Zones Children’s Camp (is) closed for this season” and that “this facility is strictly being used for families and adult guests,” the Daily Star reported.
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