ELKO — Volunteers plan to return to an 80-year-old youth camp in northeast Nevada to begin a $1 million rebuilding effort after an explosive wildfire last fall destroyed the main lodge and most of the cabins.
Elko Lions Club members who've launched a fundraising drive for Camp Lamoille hope to reopen it in summer of 2020. Located in the rugged Ruby Mountains southeast of Elko, it was opened in 1939 when the Boy Scouts of America were issued a special use permit by the Forest Service.
Chuck Stout, Camp Lamoille's manager and chairman, says he'll never forget noticing noticed a large plume of smoke in the area last Sept. 30. A camp host who was checking out the last campers for the season said the Forest Service was evacuating the canyon as a precautionary measure.
By nightfall, the lodge fully engulfed by flames.
"Less than 12 hours from the start of the fire, the canyon and the camp, as we knew it, was gone forever," said Stout.
"My heart sunk," he told the Elko Daily Free Press last week.
Ten of the 16 buildings were lost, including the main lodge, six A-frame cabins and three storage units. Stout said all that survived were the administration building, three A-frame cabins, a restroom/shower house, a generator shed and the lodge's stone chimney.
About 40 people, including members of Team Rubicon, a veterans' group, will begin removing rubble June 1-2. The work will also include restoring power and water to the camp and repairing the restroom and shower. The work is expected to be completed by late summer.
Plans for Phase 2 include constructing an open-air pavilion and repurposing the existing fireplace and chimney as an outdoor kitchen and barbecue. For lodging, three pre-fabricated cabins will be installed and eight RV parking spaces will be added.
The final phase is the construction of a new single-story lodge and storage facility. The work is dependent on funding and permitting from the Forest Service, Stout said.
So far, the Lions Club has raised about $343,000 of the estimated $1 million needed through fundraisers, insurance proceeds, and individual and corporate donations, said Teri Gage, a Lions Club member and Elko accountant. She said starting restoration within seven months of the fire is "a great start for us."
Although the camp was insured, the policy did not cover replacement value, Stout said. "There's no fire protection. You're in wildlands," he said.
Local contractors, engineers and architects have donated their services, and the Lions Club has applied for a FEMA grant of about $170,000 for fire resistant siding and roofing for the existing buildings at the camp.
"The community has been absolutely amazing at stepping up and saying, 'What can I do,'" Gage said. "It makes you proud to be part of Elko County and everything we've put together in such a short period of time."