Read original story by Phil Gomez at KSBW
BOULDER CREEK, Calif. —
For the second time in two years, a wildfire is threatening property owned by Camp Krem. This time, it’s nearly 200 miles from the Boulder Creek camp destroyed by the CZU Lightning Complex fires.
In 2020, Camp Krem was forced to evacuate as the CZU Lightning Complex fires moved in. The camp was burned to the ground leaving just one cabin and a basketball hoop. The camp has been operating in Boulder Creek for 64 years, now trying to find funds to rebuild.
Owner Alex Krem says the group in 2020 was surprisingly lucky that it happened during COVID-19 because only three people and a pig had to evacuate at the time.
This summer, Camp Krem has been hosting campers at its new camp in the town of Ahwahnee near Yosemite National Park.
On Friday, 40 camp counselors and animals at the new Camp Krem had to evacuate because of the Oak Fire.
“We were in the middle of mid-summer training and doing evaluations with our staff when we noticed the cloud of smoke, and we were getting alerts that the fire was coming close. There’s a lot of feelings, but you know we were really prepared,” said program director Jenny Cuadra.
The group was shaken up by having to evacuate, but it felt even worse because it reminded them of what happened just a couple of years ago.
“I think it was sad. It was sad for everyone because we had been through this one time before. And you know, with our last camp and the thought of it happening again was really upsetting for everyone,” said Nicola Hunt, counselor coordinator.
The local community and fire departments stepped in to help the group relocate to Boulder Creek in the middle of the night.
“We put the call out to our volunteers, and several people showed up from my fire department in Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond fire department. And we put up their tents, set up light towers, and basically, we are just the welcoming party to make sure they had somewhere to get to safely and somewhere they could bed down,” said Mark Bingham, Boulder Creek fire chief.
It’s been a rough couple of nights for the group. Having to leave their site behind, and are now being hosted at a neighbor camp, Camp Harmon.
“It’s been a lot. It’s been pretty relentless. With COVID and then the CZU fire, and this oak fire is the third fire near us. Near Camp Krem Yosemite. Just within the last week. There’s been a lot. It’s been intense, but we have a really great group. People are determined, people are resilient. We love our campers, and we love our camp, so there is a lot to keep going for,” said Christina Krem, Camp Krem director.
The camp works mainly with children with special needs and disabilities, but luckily during the time of evacuations, there were no campers on the site due to COVID-19.
“Mother Nature sends us all COVID, and we are struggling with that. And then she sends this community a whopping fire. I think there are thousands of families out of homes here. And we bounce back like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, undaunted. ‘We say OK, we’ll start again,” said Alex Krem.
The group is resilient, calling their new project “Phoenix,” saying they will rise from the ashes. All of the counselors said this is what they love doing most, and they aren’t letting any circumstance stop them from helping these campers.
“It’s a place where our campers are free to be themselves and really embraced for who they are, which is something that not everybody gets all the time in everyday life. A place where you can really be yourself and be loved for it,” Christina Krem said.