The Circle 9 Campground in Epsom lost its office to a fire 

  • The office of Circle 9 Ranch campground in Epsom caught fire on Sunday. —Courtesy of Ernie Clough

Monitor staff
Published: 2/24/2021 7:32:36 PM

The Circle 9 Ranch Campground in Epsom, a revamped vacation spot after legal troubles and poor management had pushed it into a downward spiral, suffered a minor setback last Sunday when its main office burned to the ground.

Ernie Clough, who joined a new staff at the campground four years ago, said he was home in his camper on the property when someone told him there was a fire. Clough said he lives 150 yards away from the office trailer that burned down.

“I could see it from there as soon as I got outside,” Clough said in a phone interview. “At first there was just one side of the building burning, and then within five minutes the whole building was burning and engulfed.”

No other buildings were damaged by the fire, which Clough said began at about 8:30 Sunday night. His staff now works from a temporary office, and he said his new-and-improved office will be rebuilt in about three months.

The fire pales compared to the woes Circle 9 had experienced for years, a period of time when the seasonal campground slowly absorbed people who had nowhere else to go and planted fulltime roots there.

Foreclosure came seven years ago, and the area was basically ignored for a time. That gave outsiders and existing long-term residents their chance to go in and stay in, taking advantage of electricity that was paid by an out-of-state bank.

Four years ago, new owner Forest Sell of Epsom picked Clough to be his manager, the hands-on employee, and together the pair whipped things into shape. 

A final resolution was reached five years ago, after Sell said he had spent roughly $20,000 in legal fees in a year’s time evicting 32 permanent residents that he said he had “inherited” from past ownership.

“We were not worried about the trouble left here because (Sell) has zero-tolerance for basically everything,” Clough said. “When he got here they called him the new sheriff in town.”

Business, Clough said, was decent last summer, considering that the pandemic made everyone nervous. Outside was the place to be, more so than ever before. He said the new office should be done by May.

“We were strict about masks and cleaning,” Clough said. “We have been fortunate. It’s not as good as normal, but it’s okay.”

Firefighters from Epsom, Allenstown, Canterbury, Pembroke, Pittsfield, Chichester, Concord and Northwood responded to the fire call. 

Pittsfield Fire Chief Pete Pszonowsky said his crew brought in extra water. Epsom Fire Chief Stewart Yeaton was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and an official at the Chichester Fire Department had no comment.

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