ROACH — An apparent mechanical failure in a dryer unit completely destroyed the Whispering Oak Lodge at Windermere Baptist Conference Center early Sunday morning.
The two-story, eight-unit facility was fully engulfed, with flames shooting from the roof, when firefighters were sent to the scene at 2:57 a.m., according to news reports.
A second alarm was sounded, which called 16 pieces of equipment and 27 personnel from six departments, including Mid-County FPD, Camdenton Fire Department, Osage Beach Fire Protection District, Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District, Southwest Fire Protection District and Lebanon Fire Department. Firefighters took three hours to bring the blaze under control.
No guests were staying the lodge at the time, Windermere Chief Executive Officer Dan Bench said Monday. But the facility was scheduled to be full Sunday night. Guests were relocated to other available rooms on campus.
The State Fire Marshal was called in to assist in finding the cause. Investigators determined the fire started accidentally because of a mechanical failure in a dryer in the laundry facility located on the lower level.
The 7,200-square-foot lodge was a total loss, and a nearby maintenance building, with data and communication equipment inside, also was damaged, disrupting outgoing phone service and incoming email service, Bench said.
Asked how much the loss will hurt the center, Bench said, "Certainly, the loss of one of the mini-lodges will hurt. These lodges stay full most of the time and especially during the summer. We are very fortunate this did not happen earlier in the season. We will still have a very good season and year."
Loss of the lodge is another blow to Windermere as it continues to be embroiled in a legal battle with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The center was among five entities (including The Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and Word&Way) that, in 2000-01, changed their governing documents to elect their own trustees.
In August 2002, the MBC filed legal action against the institutions in Cole County Circuit Court. The convention also filed an additional lawsuit against Windermere in Camden County where the center is located. Windermere won the Cole County case and subsequent appeals, but the Camden County case continues.
An appeals court hearing in the MBF case is set for Wednesday.