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Fire engulfs Bible camp building south of Bemidji

The Bemidji Fire Department had its hands full responding to a fire at the dining lodge at Oak Hills Bible Camp around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

BEMIDJI, Minn. - A fire ripped through the dining hall of Oak Hills Bible Camp on Wednesday afternoon.

Oak Hills program director Brian Eastling reported smoke coming from the building when he arrived at the property south of Bemidji at about 3:30 p.m.

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office said no one was in the building when it caught fire.

The Bemidji Fire Department had the fire contained within an hour.

“There was significant damage, but we were able to confine the fire and pinch it off,” said Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoeffer.

The cause had yet to be determined, but it did not look suspicious, Hoefer said.

Carol Nelson, Oak Hills Christian College executive vice president, said the fire is believed to have started in the kitchen.

Oak Hills Bible Camp is owned by the college. The summer camp has been in operation since 1926; the college dates back to 1946.

“We’re just thankful nobody was in the building,” Nelson said. “We’ll have time to rebuild before next summer.”

Nelson said the camp hosts 500 visitors during a 10-week span in the summer months. College students were not affected by the fire.