NEWS

Lightning strike fire burns church camp hall to ground

08/30/2013 08:58 EDT | Updated 10/30/2013 05:12 EDT
Officials suspect a lightning strike caused a fire that destroyed the dining hall of a church campground on an island in B.C.'s Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver.

It's believed the fire at Camp Fircom, on Gambier Island, started sometime during the intense lightning storm that moved through the Metro Vancouver region late Thursday night.

No one witnessed the start of the fire, which was first discovered early this morning by the camp chef. By the time she arrived, the building was fully engulfed in flames.

Camp officials say there is no municipal firefighting service on the island, but the fire was contained using pumps and hoses on site. The remnants of the dining hall continued to smoulder throughout the day Friday.

Rich Overgaard, the Board Chair of the United Church children's camp, says that luckily no one was inside the building at the time. The last group of children left the camp two weeks ago, but a wedding was scheduled to take place there this weekend.

Sadly, the structure is completely destroyed.

"All that's left is just a twisted metal room," Overgaard said.

The three-year-old building was part of a recent multi-million dollar renovation of the camp.

"The whole community is really stunned by this," he said. "A lot of people come here to get out of the Lower Mainland and experience nature and get outdoor education. So it's a real blow."

Camp Fircom was established 90 years ago as a retreat used by the Downtown Eastside's First United Church. According to Overgaard, ministers used to take people over to Gambier Island in a row boat.

Overgaard says the camp's board will be reaching out to the public for support to help rebuild the hall.

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