‘So many memories’

Family donates home for fire training

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood Webster City Fire Department instructor Capt. Brandon Hayes instructs Duncombe Fire Department Captain Todd Bingham and Duncombe firefighter Kyle Porter on the procedure to keep the flames isolated to the east side of the home. The home and detached garage were donated by Scot Ely for a controlled burn training exercise on Saturday in Webster City. Firefighters began the training at 8 a.m. and left the scene around 4 p.m., said Hayes.

“So many memories,” said Belinda Heinen of Webster City as she watched the home at 1437 Burgess St. consumed by flames. “This was my childhood home. It seemed bigger back then.”

The Webster City Fire Department conducted a controlled burn Saturday in conjunction with the fire and rescue departments of Blairsburg and Dunbcombe at the home and garage on the eastern edge of Webster City. The home was owned by Belinda’s son Scot Ely who donated the vacated property to the fire department for the training exercise.

Belinda grew up in the two story, three bedroom home along with her sister Sandy Jondal and Kathy Wilcox. In 1979, Belinda and her husband moved their family into the home and lived there until 1983. She pointed out the bush in front of the house that was planted by sons Scot and David when their great grandmother passed away.

“Goodbye visual memories,” texted Sandy Jondal, Belinda’s sister who witnessed the fire via Belinda’s live video feed.

Firefighters set the fire in the top story of the structure and the objective of the exercise is to manage the fire so that it burns from the top down, said Lt. Don Wills. That way, when the structure falls, it collapses in on itself.

The Webster City Fire Department was grateful for Ely’s donation as the house provided invaluable experience for firefighters, said Webster City Fire Chief Charles Stansfeld. With 15 mph winds from the southeast, the fire was fanned to over 1,500 degrees inside the structure. Yet outside, the controlled burn allowed firefighters to observe the characteristics of a fire while learning and implementing safety guidelines and procedures in a controlled environment versus an actual emergency when lives and property are at stake.

“This training is as realistic as it comes,” he said.