It was a house that was going to be burned to the ground at some point anyway, but East Pembroke Fire Chief Bob Yungsleisch didn't want to see it go like this -- in an unplanned bonfire.
For more than a year, area firefighters -- and even Batavia's SWAT team -- have been using a vacant house at 2881 Pratt Road as a training structure (here's a video we did last year of a training exercise at the house, which was donated by the previous owner specifically for training purposes).
On Monday, members of the East Pembroke Fire Department went to the structure to try a new helmet they've acquired. In order to create the right smoky environment, they put some straw in a burn barrel (a barrel intended to contain flames, but allow smoke to fill a training room), and lit it up.
After the helmet tests were completed, Yungsleisch said the fire in the burn barrel was doused with water and everybody left.
About 45 minutes later, Yungsleisch said a call came in -- probably about 9 p.m. -- that there were flames inside the house.
When he arrived, he found the flames contained to the burn barrel, and he extinguished the fire himself and notified dispatch that, "it's just the burn barrel."
As he and another person stood outside the house the other person wondered why there was so much smoke coming out of a second-floor window.
When Yungsleisch investigated, he found some papers on the second floor had ignited. He figures an ember had floated up there.
At that point, tankers from Oakfield, Pembroke, Batavia and Corfu were requested to the scene.
But Yungsleisch figured there was only one thing to do at this point -- let it burn. The firefighters called to the scene were there merely in defensive roles, to protect one nearby structure and the trees near the house.
It wasn't worth risking any firefighters to try and actually put out the fire, which burned for about two hours.
“It was a great house," Yungsleisch said. "I would have loved to have kept it another month or two, but I wasn’t about it send anybody inside.”
Photos by Destin Danser.