- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

ALTON BAY, N.H. (AP) - Authorities are trying to determine the cause of an 11-alarm fire that destroyed or damaged dozens of summer cottages at a 146-year-old Christian center.

High winds on Sunday helped fan the flames at the Alton Bay Christian Conference Center on Lake Winnipesaukee, about 30 miles northeast of Concord. The season hadn’t begun yet at the center, and no injuries to residents were reported.

“Fortunately, it was at this time of year,” state Fire Marshal William Degnan said. “During the summer, it’s full.”

Witnesses said they watched as buildings burned to the ground in minutes.

“It was a huge red inferno,” Emmy Pijoan, who has worked at the conference center, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The fire people were dwarfed by the fire. The fire trucks looked like toys compared to the fire.”

Others described the earth shaking as propane tanks exploded.

“You could feel it in your chest, then you saw the shrapnel fly up in the sky,” Brendan Belleau told WMUR-TV.

One such explosion injured a firefighter; he was hospitalized in stable condition. Others were treated for smoke inhalation or exhaustion.

The center’s approximately 140 cottages are close together in a network of narrow roads. Authorities said much of the area burned in the fire, which was brought under control around 8:30 p.m., had yet to be searched thoroughly as of late Sunday night.

The center’s Web site says its purpose is to change lives in part by “encouraging commitment to Jesus.” It says it tries to accomplish this through evangelism, encouragement of believers and equipping Christians to be effective leaders.

The center, founded in 1863, is on the southeastern corner of the lake. Besides cottages, it features a 70-room motel and a park for recreational vehicles.

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On the Net:

Alton Bay Christian Conference Center: https://abccc.org/

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