Chelan Fire Dept. stars in ‘Burning Down the House’

All that was left at the end was a chimney, but the smoke came out of the drainpipe. Gary Bégin/LCM

Firemen talk training experiences while the house kept burning a few feet away. Gary Bégin/LCM

Chelan Fire & Rescue #7 personnel started out Saturday, Nov. 16, with a briefing, followed by lots of live burn training scenarios for the firefighters throughout the day. RuthEdna Keys/LCM

The job isn’t done until you roll up the hoses. Gary Bégin/LCM

Arborvitae trees had to be cut for safety's sake. Gary Bégin/LCM

The house located at 305 E. Emerson was bought by the CVHT for $200,000. Five, 2 bedroom townhomes will be built on the property. RuthEdna Keys/LCM

Fire Chief Mark Donnell unusually smiles for a camera while thew “training house” burns behind him. Gary Bégin/LCM

CHELAN - Emerson Village, the idea both in vision and physical reality, took a massive turn towards fruition as the Chelan Valley Housing Trust (CVHT) sponsored a house burning party Nov. 16.

“The guys really had a great training experience, especially because this particular house had a basement which gave them a unique opportunity,” said Chelan Fire & Rescue Chief Mark Donnell.

Donnell, who took over for recently departed and deceased Fire Chief Tim Lemon, said it was an excellent chance for volunteer firemen and full time staffers alike to get special training, but admits the flames spread a bit faster then expected as the 3 p.m. “burn down time” was suddenly a 2 p.m. event.

“The fire spread a little faster then we anticipated,” he said.

Donnell also pointed out the area had to be made safe by cutting down a dozen or so Arborvitae trees so the pre-planned blaze didn’t accidentally spread and endanger other adjacent buildings.

“This has been a community effort all the way,” begins Rachael Goldie, housing trust administrator, “from believing in our mission, to raising the funds, to purchasing this first site, to partnering with every business and individual who helped make this happen.” 

The community wasn’t fully aware of this event as many drivers and pedestrians wondered what was going on and thought, perhaps, that it was a real house fire.

Needless to say, the Trust and their fire department conspirators came together to bring this newest phase of affordable housing to reality.

“We’re roasting the house instead of the marshmallows,” said Clint Campbell, vice-president of the nonprofit housing trust. 

To date, all the funding to support Emerson Village has come from businesses, the city and private donors. This fifth of an acre lot was purchased at below market pricing for $200,000. 

The townhomes will sell for $200,000 and are available to those earning up to $52,000, the valley’s average median income.

“While this is a milestone for the housing trust, it’s just the first step,” emphasizes Tim Hollingsworth, housing trust president and Chelan City Council member. 

“We’re in negotiations right now for other parcels of land and we can’t thank the community enough for the way everyone has embraced our mission,” he said.

To donate or inquire about home ownership at Emerson Village, visit or email

The future village is at the corner of East Chelan and N. Emerson.

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