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Cliffhanger: Authorities Set Fire To House Teetering On The Brink

A house is deliberately set on fire Friday, days after part of the ground it was resting on collapsed into Lake Whitney, Texas.
Brandon Wade
A house is deliberately set on fire Friday, days after part of the ground it was resting on collapsed into Lake Whitney, Texas.

Robb and Jenyce Webb are definitely regretting the day they bought waterfront property on Lake Whitney.

They paid about $700,000 for an idyllic cliff-side home south of Fort Worth, Texas, two years ago, where they hoped to live out their retirement years. But sometime last year, their dreams began to (literally) crumble.

The CBS affiliate for Dallas-Fort Worth reports: "The chalk-like rock underneath the home started eroding away ... eating into the property along Overlook Court. Authorities first learned about the situation in February. The home's owners ... are from Florida and moved out two weeks before the ground started to collapse."

CBS says the area is unincorporated land and does not require building permits. The house was put up in 2008, and when the Webbs bought it four years later, a geologist told them the ground was solid, the owner says.

WFAA says: "Part of the house actually fell to the lake below [after] ... a giant crack first appeared in April."

Instead of letting nature take its course, authorities and the homeowners agreed to set the structure on fire to quickly destroy it.

According to WFAA: "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 Webbs, who still have a home in Florida, are nonetheless out the hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid for the Lake Whitney property: They purchased insurance but "just found out it doesn't cover earth movement. It is unclear how much the demolition will cost, but Webb is picking up the bill," WFAA says.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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