Fire or rain: Which will demolish house at Lake Whitney?

06/13/2014 12:00 AM

06/13/2014 9:33 AM

UPDATE: Preparations were under way at Lake Whitney Friday morning to demolish a luxury home teetering on the edge of a cliff over the lake. The operation was to begin at 10 a.m., and demolition workers could be seen carrying gas cans outside the home and banging out windows to prepare it to be ignited. Hay bales outside the home were expected to be inserted and lit to destroy the home.

The initial story appears below.

Hill County officials on Thursday were shifting their focus back and forth from weather reports to the luxury house teetering on a crumbling 75-foot cliff overlooking Lake Whitney.

The 4,000-square-foot vacant house is at White Bluff Resort, 60 miles south of Fort Worth.

Its owner has decided to burn the house and clear the lot of the debris. A demolition contractor was expected to start that process about 10 a.m. Friday.

But the forecast Thursday evening called for storms and thunderstorms, some possibly severe. Officials were concerned that heavy rain might create more instability beneath the dangling house.

“If it rains tonight, and that softens the structure, I don’t know if it’ll even be there in the morning,” said Tom Hemrick, Hill County’s emergency management coordinator.

National Weather Service radar at 8:30 p.m. showed storms moving east into North Central Texas, but it was unclear if any would enter Hill County.

The house has been in danger of falling into the lake, which is fed by the Brazos River, for a couple of months. It was condemned and evacuated about two weeks ago.

The burning is intended to keep as little debris as possible from falling into the lake, Hemrick said.

“They’ll be trying to get the home to implode on itself and burn,” he said. “We want all the debris to fall back on the slab and then a long-reach excavator will pull it back to a safe area where they can work, getting it ready to be hauled off.”

He said the White Bluff Fire Department will be standing by to keep flames from damaging neighboring property — similar to a controlled burn.

“In fact, that’s exactly what it is — a controlled burn,” Hemrick said. “It will be covered.”

Tax records show the house was built in 2007 and was worth more than $700,000.

“It’s beautiful,” Hemrick said. “It breaks my heart, thinking what’s fixing to happen to it.”

The homeowner, Rob Webb, told WFAA he had difficulty recognizing the house on news reports.

“And then you’re like, ‘Good grief, that is my home?’ ” Webb said. “Yeah, it’s a trying time, certainly.”

Webb told WFAA that the house was inspected before he and his wife bought it. He said they just learned that their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover earth movement.

His retirement savings were spent on the house, he said. And Webb said he’s paying for demolition.

This contains information from WFAA and The Associated Press.

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