Sleeping Summer Campers Forced Out By Fire

By Tom Mustin

DECKERS, Colo. (CBS4) – Campers from “Ramah in the Rockies” let off steam in Denver, after a sleepless- and scary- night near Deckers.

The camp incorporates outdoor education to help teach Jewish values. Early Monday morning, a massive fire destroyed the camp kitchen, and dining hall.

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(credit: CBS)

“You could feel the heat from almost a football field away,” staff member Michael Harlow told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

Rabbi Eliav Bock grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the flames.

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Rabbi Eliav Bock (credit: CBS)

“For about a minute we thought we had it under control, then it just started moving faster and faster,” said Bock.

Bock and others woke up the 130 campers and moved them to a safe area. Minutes later cell phone video shows the campers singing and chanting.

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(credit: CBS)

“The counselors really operated on a level they could never train for, and yet they really stepped up and did what they could,” he told Mustin.

North Fork fire fighters quickly knocked down the flames.

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(credit: CBS)

The campers and staff come from across the world. The fire destroyed countless cellphones, and 20 passports.

“We’re going to work with the Israeli embassy and make sure they have their passports back or any other embassy, I think we have a few from Hungary and Poland and we’ll work with their embassy’s as well,” said Rabbi Mitchell Cohen.

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Rabbi Mitchell Cohen talks with CBS4’s Tom Mustin (credit: CBS)

Harlow says everyone remained calm. They played games and sang while being relocated to the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver.

“When you’re doing that less than 24 hours after evacuating from a life threatening fire, that says something about you.”

Parent Hartley Lachter agreed, “It’s a unique community that they’ve built and the way everyone dealt with this incredibly scary situation has reinforced that for me.”

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Ramah in the Rockies (credit: CBS)

Tuesday afternoon, the campers were relocated to the JCC Ranch in Elbert County. They’ll stay there until camp ends next week.

Fire crews are still searching for the exact cause of the fire but do not consider it suspicious in nature.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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