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  • Carol Mckee

Burning Down the House - Part Two

In part one of this blog about demolishing the house we talked about the donation of the house to the Matthews Fire Department for training. This allowed the department to conduct exercises with some of it's new members in a real life situation. This allowed them first hand experience that could someday help save lives. If you missed part one of the story you can read it here.


The fire department getting ready for the last day of exercises and the final full burn


The Big Burn Day


Before a burn like this takes place, part of the fire department's process is to notify all of the neighbors of what is going on and why it's happening. This is part of their community outreach program. When we arrived at the site on the early evening of the burn down we saw what that outreach had accomplished with the neighbors. We quickly realized that this burn down had turned into a block party. And boy was it a fun party!


The super friendly neighbors came prepared for the weather to watch the burn from across the street


Lets Meet the Neighbors

At least half or more of the neighbors in the area that we are building in came out and watched the house burn for over 3 1/2 hours. The neighbors set up tents, brought their coolers and lawn chairs, and made it a local event. It made our meeting with the neighbors leave quite a first impression and everyone was super warm and friendly. We left that evening feeling more excited about our build then ever, not because we could finally start the tangible building part of the project, but because we are moving into a neighborhood full of really nice and fun loving people. That is the best feeling!


The full burn started with a few more room isolated exercises and gradually grew in scope


A Few More Practice Fires


The burn started by the fire department setting one room on fire and training on how to put that one room fire out. Then they set another room on fire and then train them how to put that two room fire out and they did this a few different times. Taking this one last opportunity to give their fire fighters the chance to have real life experience with different fire conditions which is a rare opportunity for them.




When we say it rained we were not kidding - but that did not stop the burn from going forward


Weather Won't Stop This


But the biggest challenge of that night was not the training, it was the weather. About 6:30 PM it started to pour cats and dogs. I am talking torrential downpour plus thunder and lightening. But fire fighters have to work in all kinds of conditions so the weather did not slow them down.

The bravery of the fire fighters is impressive


In some ways the rain helped, because it helped protect the trees surrounding the house was, but in other ways it hurt because the “fuel" that they were using, which consisted of pallets and straw we’re all getting wet waiting to get burned. That really didn’t slow it down too much, and about 7:45 PM they decided to do the big burn.


The Big Burn


The big burn caught the front of the house first

Photos and videos we are showing here to give you an idea of what this was like. But I don’t know if they do it justice compared to standing in front of a house that is on fire.



One side of the house collapsed before the other


There's Not Much Left


It was amazing how insidious the fire was, and how it really did burn that house down to the ground except for the block and the brick.


The morning after the burn we were amazed to see how the fire had truly burned the house down to the foundation.

The fire department stayed with the burn well into the night to make sure the surrounding area was safe.

Still smoking the remaining materials have to cool for weeks before they can be properly disposed


There was not must was left by lunch time the next day. But the ruins continued to smoke for a couple of days afterwards. Several weeks have to go by before we can remove the organic remains for disposal to ensure that there are no live embers remain. The inorganic materials will be used as part of the fill for the house when the grading is done.


Why Go to All This Trouble?

Overall we are really glad that we were able to give the fire department an opportunity to have live training. It was an opportunity which they hardly ever get these days. We also really enjoyed meeting so many of our soon to be neighbors. While the circumstances were unusual the people in the neighborhood took it with amazing good cheer under those circumstances.


And in the overall scheme of things we probably saved a couple thousand dollars versus the traditional methods of demolition. That is not a huge amount, but it was also not the main motivator for the direction we took.


Just some of the amazing crew from the Matthews Fire Department that came out for the controlled burn


The main motivator here really was to give the fire department and opportunity that they so rarely get, and give back to those who give so much of themselves all the time. We are grateful for the Matthews Fire Department and all the brave fire fighters who give of themselves to keep us all safe.

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