S.B. County Whittier Fire-- St. Vincent de Paul Circle V Summer Camp honors Guardian Angels

Oct 16, 2017

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's line up for luncheon honoring their bravery
Credit THOMAS WILMER

Saturday morning july 8th 2017 started out uneventfully at St. Vincent de Paul’s Circle V Ranch summer camp in the hills above Santa Barbara.

But a puff of smoke on the horizon alerted camp counselors that trouble was brewing. The Whittier wildfire came close to destroying the summer camp and threatened the lives of hundreds of campers and staff.

To honor the first responders who came to the rescue of the campers, St. Vincent de Paul hosted a special luncheon at Old Mission Santa Ines Parish Hall in Solvang, California. Join me for a conversation with David Fields, Executive Director St. Vincent de Paul, Los Angeles.

David Fields, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles addresses the guardian angels attending the luncheon at Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang.
Credit THOMAS WILMER

The Whittier wildfire began in Santa Barbara County and burned throughout the Camp and surrounding area—yet all 88 campers and 36 staff members were evacuated safely by heroic first responders, staff and volunteers. 

However, the Craft Lodge, Health Lodge cabins burned to the ground, and the water treatment facility and pipes were seriously damaged requiring months of repairs. With no water, all remaining 2017 summer camp sessions were canceled and group retreat rentals canceled through May 2018. The Camp is cleaning up and rebuilding with a goal of reopening in June 2018.

About St. Vincent de Paul Circle V Ranch Camp

Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center was founded in 1945 by St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles and has been located on its current site at 2550 Highway 154 across from Cachuma Lake on 30 acres in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County since 1990.

Each Circle V Ranch Camp summer session is six days and five nights of traditional supervised fun for boys and girls ages 7 to 13 and campers in leadership training from ages 14-17.

Campers enjoy activities including archery, arts & crafts, hiking, swimming in the pool, learning about nature, reading skills, painting, photography, playing baseball, basketball, ping pong, foosball, soccer, miniature golf and of course, campfires, skits and singing.

There is no TV, radio or internet access to affect the experience. Campers stay in wood cabins or traditional canvas tents. Three nutritious daily meals served family-style in the Dining Lodge are not only for food but also for camaraderie and fellowship.

In summer 2016, the camp hosted more than 1,000 children for this time-honored experience. “Camperships” (scholarship funds made by individuals and groups’ donations) are available for qualified campers. 

During autumn, winter and spring, Circle V is available for rental to other non-profit groups and organizations.

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Culture Editor @360magazine