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Tucson family tradition up in flames

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Tucson family tradition up in flames

CREATED Jun 27, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - A firestorm may be centered on the edge of Colorado's second-largest city, but its impact reaches as far away as Tucson.  The Waldo Canyon Fire surrounded a popular Christian summer camp, leaving some Tucson families praying that their beloved family tradition survives.  The camp's staff was forced to evacuate earlier this week.

That's when Julee Aros-Thornton got a text message from a friend with a photo of the fire.  Her sons attend Eagle Lake Camp each year as part of a traditional family vacation.

"You could see the lake and all the beauty of everything around there and then you just see a fiery cloud of smoke it's just horrible," she said as her eyes welled with tears, "It's going to be gone.  We had been praying so hard that God would save it but I don't know."

She and her son Tyler leafed through scrapbooks filled with photos from summer camp.  The mountain they know is burning holds life-changing memories for Tyler.

"We'd go up there and we'd do a really touching bible study," he said, "It's just amazing and I can't believe it's going to be gone."

Most of the campers and staff were gone when the fire came through.  More than 150 people were rafting when they heard they couldn't return to the site.  Camp crew worker Picaboo Oebker returned to Tucson Wednesday with just one possession, but a positive attitude.

"My ukulele's up there and my phone and my i.d and stuff," she said, "I don't need that because I have my bible."

With no clothing, no wallet and no food, Colorado Springs residents provided for the displaced camp personnel.  Their generosity also provided a silver lining.

"The news was bad and it was really sad," said Oebker, "but we had the chance to see Colorado open up their arms to us."

For the Thornton family, that's the reason they plan to return next year.

"We loved the environment," said Aros-Thornton, "But we love the people and what the camp represents and that's more important to us than everything else."

The camp has set up a fund for their recovery.  At last word their site was surrounded by flames and at least one cabin had burned.  To provide assistance, click here.