That’s a great way to make use of perfectly good building materials that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill - and that the owners would have had to pay to haul away and that would have been a benefit to no one.
The next call was to the local fire department, to let them know they were planning on burning the house down. Obviously, they were thrilled! No really, they were – because the owners offered the house for a training burn. A training burn is a controlled burn, giving the firemen a chance to practice firefighting techniques in a real world scenario.
The fire department arrived after Habitat had taken away everything useful. They put wood pallets and hay bales in each room and burned them one at a time. The exercise lasted all day; they’d burn, put out the fire, and burn again.
They’d invited all the neighbors, who came with lawn chairs and blankets. It was almost like a Fourth of July picnic, only with bigger, hotter fireworks.
It was fascinating to watch the burn – and a sobering reminder of the dangers that firefighters face in service to the community. We were all kept about a hundred feet from the house but even at that distance, the heat from the fire was incredible.
After a full day of training, it was time to burn the house for real. The fire department set one more strategically located fire and let it runs its course. A backhoe stood by and used its bucket to push the house in on itself as it burned, keeping the burning debris within the home’s foundation walls.
When the fire ended, little was left but the foundation walls and ashes, saving the owners the cost of demolishing the house and hauling the debris to a landfill.