Camp Airy fire caused $2M in damage; community rallies in support

·3 min read

Jul. 1—Hundreds of meals and thousands of dollars poured into a summer camp near Thurmont after its dining hall caught fire Wednesday, causing an estimated $2 million in damage.

The Camp Airy dining hall, known as the White House to campers, went up in flames Wednesday morning. The camp is a sleepaway camp for Jewish boys.

The dining hall was deemed a total loss, the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services said in a news release Thursday. The cause is under investigation, but the agency has ruled out any "intentional or suspicious factors," according to the release.

More than 100 firefighters fought the blaze for hours before it was deemed under control. There were no injuries, according to the Camp Airy staff, and the fire department.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington said in a news release Thursday that it has allocated $25,000 in emergency funds to support the camp's needs and rebuilding efforts.

"Jewish summer camp is an incomparable experience," Federation CEO Gil Preuss said in the release. "Many children from our Greater Washington community attend Camp Airy, and we are grateful to Camp Airy's professional team for their dedication to ensuring that, in spite of this difficult situation, their campers will continue to have a wonderful summer."

Smoke still could be seen billowing from the camp Thursday morning, but it was much less dark and dense than it was a day earlier. Hot spots rekindled overnight and in the morning, according to the fire department, which is typical after such a large fire.

Fire crews remained at the scene to monitor the hot spots and douse them with water, the agency said in its release.

An excavator from local construction company W.F. Delauter & Son moved debris, so firefighters could reach smoldering spots, the fire department said. More than 85,000 gallons of water were used.

Plans are in place for the camp to continue feeding campers and staff this summer.

"A full-service mobile kitchen has been procured, our food vendors are scheduling supply runs, tables and chairs, and a temporary dining facility are all en route," the camp said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

Thurmont area businesses Rocky's Pizza and Gateway Farm Market sent lunch to Camp Airy "at a moment's notice" on Wednesday, the Facebook post said. Kitchen staff from Camp Louise, a sister camp for girls about 15 minutes from Camp Airy, has also helped provide meals, according to the post.

In addition, nonprofit Feed the Fridge planned to prepare and deliver 600 meals to campers Thursday evening, the organization said in a news release. The meals included steak and grilled chicken with salad, plus vegetarian options.

The meals were prepared at Medium Rare restaurant in Bethesda, the release said.

Camp leadership said via Facebook they are "touched" by the support they received.

"We may have lost a building today, but what makes our camp special is the people who have been gathering here for nearly a century," the Facebook post said. "We remain focused on making sure that every camper has an incredible session on the mountain this summer."

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller