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Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center Cancels Summer Camps After Whittier Fire Damage

Water treatment facility and a few cabins were damaged by the fire that trapped campers and counselors in place until an evacuation rescue Saturday

Flames burn intensely Saturday in the area of the Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center in the Santa Ynez Valley. Click to view larger
Flames burn intensely Saturday in the area of the Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center in the Santa Ynez Valley.  (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

A youth camp in the Lake Cachuma area has been shut down through the summer after staff discovered the Whittier Fire burned two buildings and severely damaged the camp’s water treatment facility.

On Saturday, children and staff members sheltered in place with U.S. Forest Service firefighters as flames roared dangerously close to the Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center, 2550 Highway 154.

Fifty staff members and 90 campers were evacuated in what county officials have called a dramatic rescue, several hours later, and there were no injuries. 

Everyone was reunited with their with their families in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties Saturday night, a camp spokesman said.

The fire, which ignited around 2 p.m. Saturday, charred 11,920 acres as of Wednesday afternoon and containment was at 48 percent. 

Circle V staff discovered the Craft Shack Cabin and the Health Office Cabin were burnt in the fire and the damage to the water treatment facility and pipes will require months of repairs to restart water flow at the camp. 

“With no water, there can be no Circle V Ranch Camp sessions this summer,” camp staff said in a statement. “We will not attempt to relocate camp activities this summer.”

St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles operates the Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center, and its Executive Director David Fields said officials are working to determine the cost estimate of the fire damage.

Fields visited the camp location this week but declined to comment on the fire's destruction.

“Everyone is safe, and that’s the most important thing,” Fields said. “We will assess everything later regarding the next steps. We may have a better view by the end of the week.” 

Fields was in attendance when the group of Los Angeles County campers and staff members arrived at their point-of-origin Saturday night, after they were bussed from the camp.

“Everyone was happy to see each other,” Fields said. “We met with the parents and explained that everyone was safe."

Fields said he’s grateful to the emergency crews who kept the staff and children safe.

“They (fire personnel and camp staff) did a tremendous job in terms of evacuating the kids,” he said.

All summer camps through the end of August were canceled, and fees will be refunded, a camp spokesperson said this week. 

The following summer camps were canceled:

» Session Three Space Week from July 11 to July 16
» Session Four Talent Show Week from July 19 to July 24
» Session Five Carnival Week from July 25 to July 30
» Session Six International Week from Aug. 2 to Aug.7
» Session Seven Medieval Week from Aug. 9 to Aug. 14
» Session Eight Adventure Week from Aug. 15 to Aug. 20

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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