An early morning fire destroyed the Camp Aldrich dining hall on Saturday. It created an orange glow that could be seen from Claflin.
Firefighters from Claflin, Holyrood, Ellinwood, Hoisington and Great Bend with a total of 20-30 men responded to the blaze engulfing the building.
Claflin Fire Department Captain Kyle Smith said the call came to respond at 5:30 a.m. Camp Aldrich is in the Claflin Fire District.
When they arrived shortly thereafter, the fire, was “fully involved and had burned through the roof,” said Smith. The heat from the fire was so extreme that concrete inside the building exploded.
As of early Saturday afternoon, fire fighters were waiting for the arrival of the Fire Marshal to investigate the cause of the fire.
There was no adequate source of water to extinguish the fire at the camp so the water had to be trucked in. “We really appreciate the mutual aid we received,” the captain said.
Holyrood brought eight men, Ellinwood six, Hoisington three, Great Bend two and Claflin had 15 men respond. Most of the area fire departments are all-volunteer.
Camp Aldrich, which is owned by Barton Community College, has a camp ranger on site. He was on duty at the time and reports were that he called in the fire.
Sadly, a wedding was scheduled for today and all of the food and decorations were in the building. The bride works at an Ellinwood business, and the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce issued a call on social media for help.
Decorations, food and the wedding cake were in the building. Many responded with offers of assistance.
“This is how a community comes together,” said J. Basil Dannebohm, Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce Administrator.
Reports were that the bride’s father found out about the fire after he arrived at Camp Aldrich to start cooking, only to find the building destroyed.
Smith had two words to describe the blaze and surrounding events. “It’s terrible.”
Summoning up the feelings of those there, Smith said, “It’s a hell of a loss.”