Fire erupts at Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

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A fire erupted Friday evening at a camp in Ashford, Connecticut that has offered an emotional escape for tens of thousands of children with severe and life-threatening illnesses and their families since 1988.

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The camp's chief executive, Jimmy Canton, said in an Instagram post that it appears no one was injured in the blaze, which was reported to fire officials through an automatic fire alarm just before 5 p.m.


A early evening fire destroyed several buildings at the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 in Ashford, Conn. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP)

However, four buildings that housed the camp store, arts and crafts, woodshop and cooking programs in an area on camp known as Downtown were destroyed, he said.

"Although the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, what is known is that The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is a community devoted to hope and healing," he wrote. "We will get through this in the way that we always have and always will – as a family."

Tom Borgman, the deputy chief of the Ashford Volunteer Fire Department, said it took about 90 minutes to bring the fire under control and firefighters were also able to save the camp’s infirmary and dining hall, according to multiple reports.


“There was a heavy, heavy fire,” he said. “That section of the structure was burning pretty hard and it was close to the dining hall. It was very hard work that saved that.”

It was not immediately clear if anyone was working at the camp at the time of the fire and the origin and cause of the blaze are still being investigated by federal, state and local authorities.

Although the iconic old-western-themed buildings are gone, the memories and true purpose of the camp — offering children and their families an escape from their daunting daily routines with the chance to "just be kids" and even “raise a little hell" — will live on, the camp wrote on Instagram.

A post shared by The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp (@holewallcamp)

"While these iconic buildings may be gone, the memories made inside live on forever and we will rebuild Downtown Camp so that more children and families can experience the magic of Hole in the Wall for many years to come," the camp wrote.

The legendary camp, founded by Paul Newman, works to provide a "different kind of healing" to 20,000 children and their families each year by altering traditional camp programs so anyone with a physical or mental limitation can participate — and it's completely free of charge.

Actor Paul Newman gestures as he arrives at “The Hole in the Wall” camp in Ashford, Conn. on June 9, 1988 (AP Photo/Bob Child, File)

Although The Hole in the Wall provides multiple camp experiences throughout the year on its grounds in Connecticut, staff members also work diligently to provide a "different kind of healing" in camper homes, communities and at more than 40 hospitals and clinics across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

The camp is funded in part through proceeds from the sale of “Newman’s Own” brand products.


Within hours of the news breaking, support already began pouring in from droves of volunteers, staff members and campers who are all too familiar with the "transformational spirit and friendships that go hand-in-hand" with the camp.

"Camp is so much more than just buildings," actor Anna Wood said on Instagram. "The spirit of Camp is unscathed and we will rally and rebuild together!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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