Fire crews burn luxury house teetering on crumbling cliff over Central Texas lake

The Associated Press
June 14, 2014 03:50 PM

Debris falls as a gated community White Bluff home is burned to save Lake Whitney from falling debris Friday, June 13, 2014 in Lake Whitney, Texas. The White Bluff home is built on a fault line and is gradually collapsing with the cliff side into the lake. (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ron Jenkins) MAGS OUT (FORT WORTH WEEKLY, 360 WEST); IINTERNTET OUT

WHITNEY, Texas - Charred debris from a luxury cliff-side home fell 75 feet (23 metres) into a lake below after fire crews set the $700,000 retreat ablaze rather than wait for it to crumble into the water as the land faltered around it.

It took less than an hour on Friday for the fire to level the home above Lake Whitney, about 60 miles (100 kilometres) south of Fort Worth. Flames consumed exterior walls after crews spread bales of hay and fuel to ignite flames throughout the expansive home.

The ground around the home cracked and became unstable in recent months. Then a few days ago, part of the land gave way beneath the 4,000-square-foot (372-square-meter) home, leaving pieces of the house dangling off the side of a cliff. Authorities condemned the home and the owners, Robert and Denise Webb, consented to Friday's burn.

Authorities said destroying the house was better than waiting for it to topple into Lake Whitney. The cost of removing mounds of debris from the lake could prove prohibitive.

Spectators in dozens of boats witnessed the demolition from a safe distance. Live television coverage shared the view of the spiraling black smoke coming from the gated resort community.

The Webbs purchased the home in 2012, but a few weeks ago were forced to remove their personal items and relocate. They expressed shock and sadness at losing their lake house.

The Webbs, who also have a home along Florida's Miami Beach, told WTSP-TV on Thursday that the deterioration of their property has been hard to watch.

"You know, that's my life there that we're watching fall off," Robert Webb said the day before the demolition.

Geologists and inspectors had told them before they purchased the land that the property was perfectly stable, "and so we bought it in good faith," Webb said.

The house, built in 2007, was to have been left to his grandchildren, he said.

"It's really tough, that house was special and I don't even know why it was so special but it was special to me," Denise Webb said.


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