STOCKBRIDGE — An overnight fire destroyed eight buildings at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, a private boys camp on Stockbridge Bowl.
There were no injuries among the four camp staffers who were evacuated from the scene and relocated to a local hotel, said Stockbridge Fire Chief Vincent Garofoli. One firefighter was treated and released for a minor injury.
The fire was caused by the improper disposal of oily rags, according to a statement released Friday afternoon by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
A dozen agencies provided mutual aid to Stockbridge firefighters, Garofoli told The Eagle on Friday morning at the scene.
The fire was reported by a passerby and a camp staffer shortly after midnight Friday, and it was declared fully under control by 3 a.m., the chief said. Mop-up operations continued until dawn.
“There were definitely multiple structures involved,” said Garofoli, who said he was first at the scene along with Lenox Engine One. “We ran into difficulties with propane tanks that were about to blow off. They did, the relief valves kick in and shot fire into the sky for quite a while, so we couldn’t do much for a few minutes.”
A tanker shuttle was set up with portable ponds and water drawn from the lake by a mini-pumper from Lee.
The combined efforts of the firefighting units saved the camp’s medical, administrative and maintenance buildings and most of the dorms used to house campers and staff.
Although the state Fire Marshal’s team is reporting eight buildings as involved, Garofoli explained that the total includes one building that was divided by three wings.
None of the buildings engulfed by flames were “critical infrastructure” for the camp, he said. Most of the cabins are intact, but the camp “suffered a pretty big loss” because a main residential cabin housing staff was destroyed. Of the other buildings involved, only several were in active use; the rest were used for storage.
Late Friday, Garofoli and the State Fire Marshal’s Office released a joint statement on the cause of the fire.
“Crews were staining on the property yesterday and the oily rags were stowed in one of the cabins overnight,” the statement read. “As these chemicals evaporate, they can generate heat and if the rags are balled up or mixed with other trash, they can spontaneously ignite.”
Pool supplies for the camp season were being stored in one of the cabins, prompting the state Department of Environmental Protection’s hazardous materials unit to evaluate the chemicals, make sure they are safe and secured, prior to removal from the scene.
Direct access to the portion of the camp affected by fire was temporarily barred until the state DEP and Fire Marshal units deemed it safe.
“Considering what was going on, I was very happy that we didn’t lose any critical infrastructure here,” Garofoli said, “so the camp can open as normal. My biggest concern was life safety, and then making sure critical infrastructure stayed intact.”
Jamie Chadwin, director of the camp, said the fire will not affect operations of the camp, which will open in five weeks.
Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, Egremont, Becket, Otis, Hinsdale and the combined Richmond-West Stockbridge fire departments responded to the mutual aid call, Garofoli said. The Canaan, East Chatham and Lebanon Valley, N.Y., departments supplied additional tankers.
Ambulances on standby included County, Southern Berkshire and Richmond. County Ambulance was in charge of EMS operations at the 6 Hawthorne Road site.