Usually, the Friday morning of the last weekend of camp at the Newberrytown Holiness Camp is pretty busy. Services are going on. Campers are enjoying the fellowship of fellow believers. Music fills the tabernacle.

Friday morning, though, was quiet. Most of the campers had left the night before, or early that morning, after a fire ripped through a dormitory that housed about 40 of the camp's attendees.

"It feels like the Monday after camp and things are over," said Brandon Byler, the camp president.

State police fire marshal Patrick McKenna was combing through the charred remains of the dorm's third floor Friday, seeking the cause. Although he could not pinpoint the cause of the fire, he said all of the evidence points to it being electrical in nature. He estimated the loss at more than $600,000.

The building was pretty much destroyed. Much of the roof had been burned through and the roof trusses that remained were badly charred.

Fortunately, Byler said, most of the campers were at evening service when the fire started shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday. He said some of the campers noticed a power surge during the service and went outside to see whether the electrical box feeding the chapel was OK.

"Someone here said they had heard an air conditioner go haywire," Byler said.

While the campers checked the electrical box, they noticed smoke coming from the dormitory roof.

Some of those staying in the dorm were able to salvage a few belongings -- clothing, laptops and printers -- before the building was engulfed in flames.


"We're just glad it didn't happen at night and that everybody is OK," Byler said.

The camp, which sits on six acres off Whisler Road near Paddletown Road in Newberry Township, was established in the late 1950s by a local preacher, Eugene Winter. Winter had been minister of what had been Parkville Gospel Mission, now the Parkville Bible Church, when he got the idea to start the camp.

The church already had a day school -- housed in a building that now houses the Newberry Township Senior Center -- and Winter believed a camp would be a logical extension of the church's mission.

His son, Jim Winter, interim pastor of the West York Missionary Church, said his father dispatched his wife to ask the old farmer who owned the land -- less than half a mile from the Parkville church -- whether he wanted to sell any of the land. The transaction wasn't easy to negotiate, Jim Winter said. The farmer was deaf and had to read his mother's lips.

Eugene Winter bought the land and then sold it to the church for a dollar. He built the camp over the next few years, envisioning it as a campmeeting, a retreat for families and youth to learn about the Bible and refresh their spiritual lives. He had a bus business, providing transportation services to the then-Red Land School District, and all of the money he earned from the business went into the camp.

"He felt in his heart that he should start the camp as a place where people could come to find spiritual enlightenment," Jim Winter said of his father. "It's been a place where people with broken hearts and broken lives could come and get their lives back together again."

The recent nine-day campmeeting, which began July 9, is the major annual event at the camp. There's also a youth camp in August and a meeting in the fall. The camp serves five churches, including Hanover Evangelical Brethren, Parkville Bible Church in Newberry Township and York Bible Methodist in York.

The fate of upcoming events was up in the air Friday. The immediate concern was seeing whether any other campers' belongings could be salvaged and meeting with the insurance adjuster, Byler said. The camp will rebuild. A blessing in disguise, said Jim Winter's wife, Linda, is that the building, which dates to the early 1960s, can be updated.

For now, Linda Winter said, it's kind of strange at the camp.

"It's really quiet," she said. or 771-2046.

To help

Since the dormitory at the Newberrytown Holiness Camp was only temporary housing for campers, there wasn't much loss of personal property, camp president Brandon Byler said.

The building is insured, he said. But if people wish to help the camp, they can contribute to help cover operating expenses. Since the last weekend of the nine-day encampment is usually the busiest for donations, Byler said the camp will come up short on covering its budget.

"We're not looking for a handout, but if people want to help, we'd appreciate it," Byler said.

To contribute, send donations to camp treasurer Phil Nell, 62 Short Cut Road, Abbottstown, Pa. 17301, or call him at 717-259-0775.

Special church service

Newberrytown Holiness Camp will host a special church service Sunday evening to give thanks that camp attendees were not hurt in a dormitory fire Thursday.

The service will be held at Parkville Bible Church, 800 Whisler Road, Newberry Township. The public is invited.

For details, call camp president Brandon Byler at 250-5783.