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Lightning Suspected In Fire That Destroyed Building At Chester County Campground

Jan-Carabeo-web-social-pic-no-branding Jan Carabeo
Jan Carabeo joined CBS 3 and The CW Philly’s Eyewitness News team ...
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By Jan Carabeo

EAST BRADFORD, Pa., (CBS) — As the sun shone in East Bradford, Chester County Monday afternoon, there was no sign of the storm that blew through hours before, except at one site on Valley Creek Road.

Bent metal and smoldering wood was all that remained of a decades-old building at Paradise Farm Camps in Chester County.

“I don’t know how to break this to you, but the teen cabin is burned to the ground,” Scott Strickling said.

Strickling is the teen director at the day camp and recalled how he learned about the massive fire that destroyed what had been his classroom for the past 11 summers.

A pin found in the rubble. The camp uses these pins as a symbol, which stands for "The Drive Inside."  They use that saying and symbol in their leadership training for the teens as a reminder of what it takes to succeed in life. (credit: Scott Strickling, Teen Director, Paradise Farm Camps)

A pin found in the rubble. The camp uses these pins as a symbol, which stands for “The Drive Inside.” They use that saying and symbol in their leadership training for the teens as a reminder of what it takes to succeed in life. (credit: Scott Strickling,
Teen Director, Paradise Farm Camps)

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“We’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this,” Strickling said.

Around 1 a.m. Monday, the teen center in the day camp area caught fire.

Staff reported lightning and a loud crack, then a camper at a different area reported flames. Fire crews were on scene in minutes.

“By the time the fire companies got here, the building was already a loss,” camp president Andy Schaum said.

The Chester County Fire Marshal is investigating the cause, but officials say the fire was likely caused by a lightning strike.

Only the steps and chimney remain Monday afternoon, and the blow could not come at a worse time.

Monday was supposed to start the camp’s busiest week. The day camp alone serves about 250 kids a day in Chester County. But that part of the camp had to remain closed Monday as the grounds were restored to working order.

Paradise Farm Camps, operated by the Children’s Country Week Association, was founded in 1875, and this specific building that caught fire was located in the day camp area, which was built in the 1930s.

“It is painful, it does break out hearts,” Schaum said. “But like all good Americans, you get stronger through it.”

The camp’s mission is to reconnect children with nature.

Kids will return Tuesday with a lesson learned about the power of mother nature and a lesson still to be had about resilience.

“Let’s rebuild,” Strickling proclaimed.

There were no injuries as a result of the fire. The teen center was unoccupied at the time. Campers who stay overnight were not in the day camp area.

Paradise Farm Camps is a non-profit organization. Those who what to find out more on how to help the camp rebuild can click here.

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