Generations of Dunelanders who spent time in Camp To-Pe-Ne-Bee in LaPorte
County may spare a moment of nostalgia today for the dining hall where they
took their meals.
The dining hall, a wooden structure dating from the 1950s, burned to the
ground Wednesday in what the Coolsprings Township Volunteer Fire Department
is calling an accident.
CTVFD Assistant Chief Robb Quinn told the Chesterton Tribune today that
firefighters responded at 7:46 p.m. but that the fire had probably been
burning for a good 30 minutes before the alarm came in. Camp To-Pe-Ne-Bee is
located in an isolated rural area on U.S. Highway 421 off Holemsville Road,
and when the CTVFD arrived at the scene the dining hall was fully engulfed
and largely destroyed.
With assistance from the Westville and Center Township departments, the
CTVFD used 24,000 gallons of water to douse the blaze. Firefighters were
forced to shuttle tankers to the scene, filled from a hydrant three miles
for the camp.
Quinn said that 40’ x 100’ one-story dining hall was essentially a
“glorified cabin” constructed entirely of wood and that it went up very
quickly. At the moment the CTVFD is listing the cause of the fire as
undetermined but Quinn did say that investigators are reasonably certain
that it was accidental in nature. Given the extent of the damage, he added,
it will be “impossible” to tell where in the dining hall precisely the fire
No one was injured in the fire, but Quinn noted that the heat and humidity
Wednesday evening made fighting the fire all the more difficult. The CTVFD
cleared the scene at around 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, Camp To-Pe-Ne-Bee remained in business today with around 300
campers and volunteers on the grounds. Tom Goin of the Dunes Marine Council
of the Boys Scouts of America said that eventually the dining hall will have
to be rebuilt. “But right now we’re concerned about conducting camp and