Chesterton Tribune

Fire destroys dining hall at Camp ToPeNeBee

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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 began.

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 having fun.”


Posted 6/26/2003