San Jose Family Camp Rebuilds, Opens After Rim Fire

By Bob Redell and Lisa Fernandez
|  Friday, Jun 13, 2014  |  Updated 7:58 AM PDT
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The San Jose Family Camp is reopening near Yosemite less than a year after the Rim Fire. Bob Redell reports.

The San Jose Family Camp is reopening near Yosemite less than a year after the Rim Fire. Bob Redell reports.

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San Jose Family Camp opens Friday, with camp staff putting the finishing touches on getting things ready, including putting tarps on newly built canvas tents, following California's third largest wildfire last summer.

In the last six months, camp crews removed 800 charred and damaged trees, built 17 out of 65 tent cabins, and rebuilt destroyed water tanks.

"When I came here, all I saw were dead trees and metal frames of tents," Camp Manager Jenna Sorrels told NBC Bay Area Friday morning, before the rush of campers was expected at 1 p.m. "I had six months with my team to get this up and running. And the main goal was to be safe."

The camp, owned by the city of San Jose, is located in the heart of the Sierra near Yosemite National Park just east of Groveland.

On Aug. 17, 2013, a fire dubbed the "Rim Fire" ripped through Tuolumne and Mariposa counties, and burned more than 250,000 acres, earning the dubious honor of becoming California’s third largest wildfire, and the biggest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada. It was deemed 100 percent contained in October - two months after it started. Firefighters said it cost $127 million to fight.

Cal Fire later determined it was caused by a hunter’s illegal fire that went out of control.

Eleven homes, three commercial buildings and 98 outbuildings were destroyed in the fire. Nearby Camp Tawonga , a Jewish camp in the area, suffered the loss of a few buildings, but mostly remained unscathed. That camp officially opens to children on Sunday. And San Francisco's Camp Mather, also survived and is up and running this summer.

Berkeley Tuolomne Camp – a family camp owned by the city of Berkeley and seven miles away from San Jose’ family camp– suffered the most damage of all the family camps in the area.

The fire demolished all the tent cabins, and wiped out what had been a summer institution for many in Berkeley since 1922. Now, there is only a camp photo memorial Facebook page left to remember the history there.

This summer, Berkeley’s camp moved to a temporary spot at Echo Lake at Lake Tahoe, under the name “Berkeley Sierra Family Camp.” But if Berkeley residents don’t want to camp at Tahoe this summer, San Jose Family Camp is offering Berkeley campers an offer to stay at its camp at the same rate for San Jose residents.

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