2 counties battle 3-alarm fire in Bradford County

No one injured at Salvation Army's Camp Keystone

BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. - What was described as Bradford County's largest fires in recent history left hundreds of campers at the Salvation Army's Camp Keystone without a dining hall, according to Michael Heeder, with County Emergency Management.

Around 2 a.m. Saturday morning, Bradford County deputy Chris Adams at the camp in Theressa, outside of Keystone Heights, smelled smoke and then noticed flames coming from the laundry area of the 16,000-square-foot dining room.  He call for help and grabbed a fire extinguisher, but the fire was to large to contain.

Bradford County fire crews arrived on scene shortly after and flames were coming through the roof upon arrival, Heeder said.

IMAGES:  Fire destroys camp's dining hall

Officials called a second, then third alarm, summoning additional firefighters from the city of Starke Fire Department and Clay County Fire-Rescue.

Once the fire spread into the attic, firefighters were pulled out of the building before the roof collapsed. An aerial ladder truck from Green Cove Springs was used to knock down the main body of fire so crews could go back inside and finish extinguishing the fire. 

In all, 25 fire units were called in to the scene.

"In shrinking budgets, cutting staffs, it's very significant to know that we can pick up the phone and have our neighboring  counties, whether it's Bradford, Duval, St. Johns, whoever it is, come in and assist each other in situations like this," said John Ward, deputy director of Clay County Emergency Management.

According to Bradford County PIO Michael Heeder, Deputy Adams worked to evacuate nearby cabins in case the fire spread from the original building. Heeder also says that newly installed fire hydrants at the complex helped crews battle the blaze quickly.

"The hydrants were able to deliver the thousands of gallons of water per minute needed to control the fire," he said.

As of 9 a.m., multiple crews were still on scene putting out hot spots.  The Florida State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the blaze.

Currently there are 230 campers on site, 375 total including staff.  Some nearby cabins were evacuated during the height of the fire,, but officials say no one was injured.

Channel 4 a crew on scene and working to get more details.  This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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