Crime

Cleanup from ‘senseless vandalism’ brings high price for Whatcom special needs camp

Vandals reportedly caused between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of damage Tuesday afternoon to the Lions Camp Horizon for special needs adults in Birch Bay by spraying a fire extinguisher inside three dormitories.
Vandals reportedly caused between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of damage Tuesday afternoon to the Lions Camp Horizon for special needs adults in Birch Bay by spraying a fire extinguisher inside three dormitories. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Vandals reportedly caused nearly $15,000 worth of damage Tuesday afternoon to the dormitories of a non-profit camp in Birch Bay that provides summer camp experiences for disabled teens and adults.

The unknown vandals reportedly forced their way into three of the four dormitories at the Lions Camp Horizon between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and sprayed multiple dry-chemical fire extinguishers in the building, according to Lions Camp Horizon Foundation president Don Webster in an email Thursday to The Bellingham Herald.

The powder from the extinguishers spread throughout the buildings “like a fog” Webster said, leaving a chemical residue on everything, including the carpet, walls, window coverings and beds.

Initial damage estimates could go up if the corrosive material from the extinguishers damaged any electrical circuit boards in the dorm’s fire detection and alarm systems, Webster said. Though the camp does have insurance, it has a $2,500 deductible.

“We operate on a very lean budget,” Webster told The Herald. “Spending $2,500 as our deductible to get this mess cleaned up takes money directly away from assets that could be used for camperships for those who cannot afford our camp fees, camper activities, facility improvements and maintenance. It also places additional tasks on our part-time staff and volunteers to organize the cleanup and related actions to deal with this senseless vandalism.”

Webster said a report has been filed with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, which he said is investigating.

North Whatcom Fire and Rescue also was called to the camp twice Tuesday when the buildings’ fire alarms were triggered, Webster said.

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Vandals reportedly caused between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of damage Tuesday afternoon to the Lions Camp Horizon for special needs adults in Birch Bay by spraying a fire extinguisher inside three dormitories. Lions Camp Horizon Foundation Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Camp Horizon is celebrating its 45th year in 2019. According to the camp’s website, it opened in 1974 in Lynden after the Lynden Jaycees recognized that adults with developmental disabilities in the Puget Sound needed recreational opportunities. The camp was held at various locations until 1986, when it moved to its permanent home on the site of the former Blaine Air Force station.

The Lions Camp Horizon Foundation was founded in 1993 by the Lions District 19H clubs from lower mainland British Columbia and northwestern Washington state, according to the website, to help with funding and oversee operations.

The facilities, which host 250 campers per summer, are rented during the offseason for a number of different uses, the website said, including overnight accommodations, meeting, retreats and weddings.

Webster said the camp has had two similar attacks previously, including one on the dining hall in 2017, when fire extingishers were again sprayed in a recently remodeled kitchen and caused approximately $10,000 in damages, according to Herald archives.

If you want to help

The Lions Camp Horizon Foundation is accepting donations to help offset the cost of the damage to the camp’s dormitories recently caused by vandals, president Don Webster said. Donations can be made:

Online: lionscamphorizon.org/support/donate-now/

By mail: Lions Camp Horizon, 7506 Gemini Street, Blaine, WA 98230

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.


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