Burn down my house … please

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:02

    Hemlock Farms - Smoke billowed from the windows and the flames were intense inside the lakefront home in Hemlock Farms last weekend. Firefighters kept the flames in check, but did not extinguish them, because the Hemlock Farms Fire Department was using this home, said to be valued at $500,000, for a planned and controlled residential fire for training personnel from several fire companies. The two-story wood home with its massive stone fireplace occupies a prime location overlooking the lake at Hemlock Farms, an exclusive gated community. The home was recently purchased by Larry and Cheryl Solotoff, described as two senior New York City attorneys. No representative of the owners or the community was on hand to comment on their decision to destroy the home. Others said the Solotoffs found the house was too large for them and had too many stairs to climb to reach the main living area of the home on the second floor. The couple reportedly wanted a smaller one- story, more manageable ranch style home, but they also wanted it on that same location. So they offered the Hemlock Farms Fire Department the opportunity to set it on fire and train some of the fire department personnel in a real fire situation before they tear it down to build their new home. Dingman Township Fire Department, Chief Bill Mikulak said, “Fires like this are very hard to come by. We just can’t burn someone’s house down. The Solotoff’s offered this house to us and through Gene Berry and Bucks County Community College in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and we were able to put this training program together.” Some of the firefighters were amused by the irony. One commented, “They won’t be calling the insurance company anyway.” There were fire department personnel from Hemlock Farms, Milford , Dingman Township, the Shawnee Fire Company from Monroe County, and two fire companies from Luzerne County participating in this two weekend fire training session. Gene Berry Fire Chief Training Instructor in charge of the planned burn said, “We will have 30 men training this weekend and another 30 training next weekend. We are only burning the inside of the house.” Berry said that they had to remove all the interior furnishings such as couches, beds, and cabinets that might be accelerants or give off noxious fumes that could be dangerous to the trainees. They used hay and wooden skids to replicate the furniture burning in the house along with the walls and ceilings. Berry said, “At the end of the training session next week the house will appear from the outside just as it appears today with minimal exterior damage.” “For some of the firemen training here this may be a once in a career opportunity as they mostly train at special fire department training centers where they use propane to create the fire and the building layout is always the same. Here it is very different and a much more realistic fire experience,” Berry said. After the firemen leave the Solotoff’s will have to decide whether to tear down the remaining burned and gutted structure before winter or leave it all till spring when building of their new home will begin.