HILL COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – The luxury home that was teetering on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Whitney was burned down on Friday. City leaders met Thursday to discuss options for demolishing the structure before it fell into the water, in order to minimize the amount of debris that would go into the lake.
The chalk-like rock underneath the home started eroding away last year, eating into the property along Overlook Court. Authorities first learned about the situation in February. The home’s owners — Robert and Jenyce Webb — are from Florida and moved out two weeks before the ground started to collapse. They only used the home part-time. The home was built in 2007 and valued at around $800,000.
The Hill County Sheriff’s Office stated that this was the only house in jeopardy at this time. However, the Army Corp of Engineers are keeping a close eye on other nearby properties along the north shore of the lake.
Hill County does not require building permits in unincorporated areas, except for septic systems. The community where the home rested is in an unincorporated area. “It could go at any time,” Chief Deputy Mark Wilson said Wednesday. “Deputies told me there are cracks around the house up to two to three feet wide.”
Rather than waiting out the process as originally planned, county officials met on Thursday to talk about demolishing the structure. Burning the home was one of the ideas mentioned at that meeting, but Hill County Judge Justin Lewis did not have authorization to order that demolition. It had to come from either the home’s owners or the Army Corps of Engineers, since they own the lake.
The homeowners on Thursday evening decided to burn the home. That demolition-by-fire happened at around noon on Friday before a crowd of neighbors on land and additional onlookers in the water. The hope was that, by destroying the structure before it fell, fewer materials would get dumped into Lake Whitney. Firefighters used flares and gasoline to ignite the home after piercing holes in the walls.
The shoreline is about 70 feet below the location where the house once stood, and neither walkable nor in a busy boating area. The situation was not believed to be a public safety issue, but the spot was roped off as a precaution. The owners of the 4,000 square foot home are now being held responsible for cleaning up the mess of the home’s destruction.
Hill County emergency management coordinator Tom Hemrick said that the charred debris would be moved to more stable land, allowing crews to then pull out the concrete foundation slab. However, some parts of the home’s back porch had already fallen down onto the shore long before the fire had started.
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