The massive Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest has now burned through the Long Beach Unified School District's Camp Hi-Hill Outdoor Education Center, according to a map revised as of 12:39 a.m. Wednesday.
No estimate of damages to the camp was immediately available. The Station Fire, which threatened Hi-Hill on Friday and Saturday, had passed through the area by Sunday without causing major damage to the camp. Even as late as Monday, a satellite photo with a red overlay depicting the burn area showed that Hi-Hill escaped fire damage. But the newest map shows Hi-Hill well within the burn area.
Full containment of the fire was not expected for several more days. With fire crews focusing their efforts on containment, a detailed assessment of damages is unlikely to be available soon. Road closures and mandatory evacuations are making it impossible for school district personnel to assess damages first-hand at the remote camp.
No students were attending the camp when the Station Fire broke out. A maintenance worker for the Long Beach Unified School District was evacuated from the site on Friday as a precaution, and no other LBUSD employees remained at the site.
The Station Wildfire had burned within 2 miles of Hi-Hill as of 5:30 p.m. Friday, when it was reportedly headed for the camp, which is about a mile east of Angeles Crest Highway and Mt. Wilson Red Box Road.
While the 13-acre camp is on federal land, LBUSD has a special permit to operate a natural science education camp there. The school district, however, shut down the camp last year – at first due to fire danger, and then due to budget cuts.
The school district owns the more than 40 structures at the site, including student dorms, or cabins, a dining hall, storage buildings, offices, staff residences and other buildings. The buildings are wood-framed structures, some of them built 60 years ago. More than 300,000 students had attended the camp since it opened as one of California’s first outdoor science schools in 1948.
Fifth graders in the school district would spend a week at the camp learning firsthand about astronomy, geology, ecology, biology, botany, entomology, ornithology, meteorology and other sciences. For many students, the one-week camp was their first close-up experience with nature.
Last year’s closure of the camp saved the school district nearly $1 million annually. The closure was part of more than $100 million in cuts that the school district has made in the past five years due to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.
For updates on the forest fire, visit www.inciweb.org and click on the “Station” Wildfire. Updates also are available 24 hours a day at 626-821-6700 and 626-574-1613.