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Rim Fire Destroys Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family Camp

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Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp

Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp

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GROVELAND (CBS SF) — Nearly 150,000 acres have burned in the raging Rim Fire and the Berkeley-run camp Tuolumne Camp was destroyed in the blaze over the weekend, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed Monday.

The fire, which started on Aug. 17, has spread from Stanislaus National Forest into Yosemite National Park and has since destroyed 23 structures and is threatening as many as 4,500 others.

One of those structures burned was Berkeley’s long-running family camp, a summer destination for generations, located at 31585 Harden Flat Road near Groveland.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates called the loss “so sad” and recalled the retreat as “a Berkeley tradition.”

The camp, comprised of several cabins, a dining hall, a main lodge and other recreational facilities on the Tuolumne River, had offered fishing, swimming, hiking and other activities since opening in 1922 for Berkeley residents and other locals.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said “the damage appears to be pretty extensive…it’s pretty devastating.”

Resident August Estabrook, 36, reminisced Monday about “magical” summers spent as a camper for seven years and then as a staff member for three more starting in the mid-1980s.

“It was a very memorable place for me. That place has all my firsts. I look super fondly on that place,” he said. “Now that it’s gone, I haven’t even digested it.”

Another Berkeley resident, Shoshana Gizzi, said her “house was a heap of tears” after her family heard the news; they had been going to the camp for the past decade – with their latest trip coming at the end of last month.

“There is so much grief and sorrow,” Gizzi said. “Especially for the longtime families.”

Officials indicated it was too soon to decide how to proceed with the campsite.

“It would be wonderful if we could rebuild it,” Mayor Bates said, but cautioned “if everything else is burned, it would be a camp without any ‘there’ there.”

He said the tough reality is that if the forest, centuries-old trees and surrounding environment have been destroyed beyond recognition, the camp “won’t have the same ambiance.”

The camp had been evacuated last Tuesday as the flames neared. No injuries were reported when the blaze touched down at the camp.

The city of Berkeley runs another summer camp at Echo Lake near Lake Tahoe. It was closed because of heavy smoke from the Rim Fire affecting air quality, but the camp itself was not threatened by the fire.

The fire has also not affected other Bay Area-run camps including the University of California alumni camp Lair of the Golden Bear, located at 188 Dodge Ridge Road near Pinecrest, forest service officials said.

Camp Mather, the San Francisco-run camp at 35250 Mather Road near Groveland, sustained some minor fire damage but all structures were intact as of Monday.

There were also evacuations last week at the San Jose Family Camp, also near Groveland.

San Jose city officials said the camp had not sustained major damage, but added that there were 12 tent cabins that burned, an outbuilding that was destroyed and other equipment lost including two all-terrain vehicles, a log splitter and a tow-behind trailer.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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