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Juneau man agrees to torch million-dollar home

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

On Saturday, David MacDonald, of Juneau, Alaska, watched his million-dollar home burn to the ground. It was a moment of mixed emotions for the 63-year-old civil engineer, according to the Juneau Empire. Unlike most house fires, this was a premeditated and controlled event.

In July, MacDonald prepared the structure for donation. The blue and white house, built in 1968, had too many structural issues. The problems would cost MacDonald more to fix than the house was worth, so he made a tough call: He decided to gift his home to Juneau's Capital City Fire & Rescue (CCFR) to practice attacking fires.

About 40 firefighters extinguished the practice blaze, which MacDonald and the CCFR started. Deputy Fire Marshal Sven Pearson told the Juneau Empire:

(This burn) gives us a good opportunity to use our skills on an actual building. The training center is great, but a lot of us, that's all we practice on. This gives us a structure that's in the community, basic construction that you're going to find anywhere around Juneau, and it's great for some of these young guys getting hands-on training.

According to Fire Chief Richard Etheridge, hands-on training is rare in Juneau. Etheridge points out that at least 20 of the department's firefighters have less than five years of field experience. The last time the department engaged in a live burn was about two-and-a-half years ago.

In the past, Etheridge has been picky about using donated homes for practices, saying that many are too close to power lines and other structures to be safely burned. But he found the location of MacDonald's house was perfect for the exercise. He said:

This structure is in an area that is easy to protect. There is great air movement, it will be a clean hot fire so there should be a very solid smoke column that reaches a high altitude before spreading apart.

MacDonald is just happy he could help. Read more at the Juneau Empire.