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Disasters & Accidents

Fans Of Breitenbush Retreat Center Rally Behind Rebuilding Effort

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Breitenbush Retreat Center
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Fans of a Marion County retreat center badly damaged by wildfires are rallying behind a fundraising effort to rebuild it.

Staff evacuated guests from the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat Center near Detroit Lake on Monday evening, September 7, as flames approached. Managers say everyone got out safely. A skeleton crew stayed behind to help fight the flames.

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Credit Joe Sanders
Breitenbush is known for its hot springs. File photo submitted by Joe Sanders.

The retreat center says many buildings were destroyed, although some--including the main lodge--were saved. The facility, which had re-opened recently after being closed for months due to the coronavirus, will remain closed until some time in 2021.

The owners say insurance will cover part of the loss, but they’re also asking their supporters to chip in and help speed the rebuilding process.

And fans are eager to help. A separate fundraiser on GoFundMe had already raised more than $20,000 by Friday morning.

For loyal fans like Joe Sanders of Springfield, the news that many of the center’s buildings burned to the ground was hard to hear.

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Credit Joe Sanders
The guest cabins reportedly burned down during the fire. Photo submitted by Joe Sanders.

“Everybody’s kind of in stunned shock about this," he said.

Sanders first visited in 1990 and says he's been back at least once a year since then.

"As a person who's traveled fairly extensively, Breitenbush, to me, is an experience that’s unique in the entire world," he said. "I've not found any other place that can compare."

To make things worse, Sanders, 81, was booked to stay at Breitenbush this month. Those plans are on hold indefinitely.

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Credit Breitenbush Retreat Center
The main lodge survived the fire without much damage. This photo was taken after fire destroyed many other buildings at the retreat center.

"I deal with isolation issues anyway, and in COVID the isolation has been greatly intensified," he said. "What Breitenbush offered me was a place where being alone didn't have to be a negative. It could be a positive."

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