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Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - July 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company

Dining hall fire shuts down Camp Cullen

Trinity Standard -

TRINITY – Although a Trinity firefighter sustained a minor injury early Monday, July 19, no children were hurt when a massive fire ripped through the dining hall and kitchen at Camp Cullen. The fire, which was reported at about 3:15 a.m., was contained within the youth camp’s large, wooden dining facility, Fire fighters remained on the scene well into the day Monday. Even though the large wooden structure was “on the ground,” after sunrise it continued to have hot spots that would spurt flames from time to time. The fire forced the camp to shut down its summer camp for children. A total of 110 children ranging in age from 8 to 16 were at the camp at the time of the fire, along with 50 staff members. “The children were never even close to danger,” said Len Masengale, Camp Cullen’s director of camping services. He noted that when the early morning fire broke out, all of the children were in their cabins, which are not located near the dining hall. “The one good thing about this is the timing. Because it happened so early in the morning, the dining hall was empty,” he said. The only injury reported as a result of the blaze was to the Trinity Volunteer Fire Department’s chief, Hayne Huffman. While battling the fire, a pressurized hose broke free from its handler and it snaked around striking Huffman. Huffman was helped away from the fire by two other firefighters but he quickly recovered, declined medical attention and returned to direct the TVFD’s efforts. Operated by the Houston YMCA, Camp Cullen was established in the 1970s on 510 acres off FM 356 east of Trinity. It provides camping activities to youth during the summer and during the school year houses an Outdoor Education Program for fifth graders operated through the Houston Independent School District. The dining hall and kitchen building destroyed Monday was among the newest structures at the camp, with a major section added in 2003. It was the largest building at the camp and had a seating capacity of 300. Masengale said staff members were busy Monday morning notifying the campers’ families of the incident and asking that they come pick up their children. He added that a Crisis Management Committee had already been formed to try to work through the disaster. “Our first priority is to get all of the children home safely. After that is done, we’ll come back, look at the situation and make some decisions,” Masengale said. Without the ability of feed the children Monday, several area restaurants stepped forward and donated food. Sonic Restaurant in Trinity provided them with breakfast sandwiches while the Trinity Subway sandwich shop prepared six-inch subs for lunch. Pizza Pro of Lovelady donated pizzas to feed those who remained at the camp at dinnertime. In addition, the Trinity Brookshire Brothers grocery provided water and Kool Aid for the campers. “It is unbelievable how the local community stepped forward to help us at this time,” Masengale said. “I can’t say enough about how much that means to us. It was tremendous.” Masengale credited Trinity Standard photographer Sharon Bullion with organizing the effort to get food for the children. “While I was running around making sure everyone was safe, she was on the phone organizing food. I really appreciate her efforts,” he said.


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