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Fire Razes Center on Base

May 05, 2003|From Associated Press

CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. — A historic recreation center built during World War II burned to the ground early Sunday morning, base officials said.

No one was injured in the fire that started about 1:20 a.m. and burned about 90 minutes before it was contained. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Known as the Service Club, the nearly 14,000-square-foot building served as the principal recreation center for California National Guard troops, as well as Marines, Navy and Army reserve personnel training on the base 200 miles north of Los Angeles.

"It's a critical loss. The building is irreplaceable," said Lt. Col. Larry Kimmel, deputy commander at Camp Roberts. "There are a lot of memories that went into that building."

During World War II, celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Red Skelton entertained troops at the recreation center, which was built in 1941. Nearly 500,000 soldiers trained at Camp Roberts during World War II. Tens of thousands of troops were based there during the Korean War.

The base now is the principal training center for the California National Guard.

Some troops quartered there are awaiting deployment orders to the Middle East.

There were about 1,200 troops on the base at the time of the fire, Kimmel said.

The recreation center was the only one on the base.

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