ROACH —A devastating fire July 22 at Windermere Baptist Conference Center here destroyed a building containing the commercial laundry for the camp as well as a deluxe two-story residential complex while also damaging a nearby telecommunications building, knocking out the camp’s phone service for days.
Whispering Oak Lodge burned to the ground due to a mechanical failure in a dryer unit, according to Chris Bachman, fire marshal of the Mid-County Fire Protection District, who was assisted by the State Fire Marshal. The lodge, which sleeps 46 people in a 7,200-square foot facility, is a total loss.
Firefighters were called to the scene at 2:57 a.m. Sunday and found the structure fully engulfed. No guests were occupying the lodge at the time, Bachman said, and firefighters went to work for the next three hours negating flames that were shooting 30 feet from the roof.
It was then determined that the fire would go to a second alarm situation. That prompted a more intense response that included 16 pieces of equipment and 27 personnel responding from six departments including Mid-County FPD, Camdenton Fire Department, Osage Beach Fire Protection District, Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District, Southwest Fire Protection District and Lebanon Fire Department.
While the Windermere fire was being extinguished, Lake Ozark Fire Protection District moved up to standby at Mid-County Station 1 to provide coverage for any additional calls in the Camdenton area.
Data and communication equipment was damaged inside the maintenance building, Bachman said.
Windermere Chief Executive Officer Dan Bench told Associated Baptist Press that the loss of Whispering Oak Lodge “will hurt” because the lodges stay full most of the time and especially during the summer. He then predicted Windermere “will still have a very good season and year.”
A more sober assessment was provided by Windermere staff on Facebook: “We have insurance on Whispering Oaks, but our deductible is large, and the uninsured phone wires in the phone building, loss of business due to phone outages in summer, and all the extra man hours to help put it all back together again add up to more than we could’ve imagined. We will be putting out a call for volunteers also.
“The lodge housed our commercial laundry area. We have already replaced most of our towels and wash cloths as well as sheets. Plans are underway to rebuild Whispering Oaks and a new laundry facility.”
Windermere was one of five Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) subsidiary corporations to break from the convention in 2000-2001 by changing their charters to create self-perpetuating trustee boards. MBC Legal Counsel Michael Whitehead said MBC leaders are relieved that no one was injured in the fire and are interested in discovering Windermere’s plans to absorb these losses and to rebuld these facilities. He said the MBC is also looking forward to recovering Windermere through a jury trial now set for next April 1 in Camden County Circuit Court.
“The MBC family hurts when Windermere is hurt,” Whitehead said, “and we look forward to the day when this ministry is restored to the MBC family.”