Sunday, April 13, 2014

The time I burned down a house...

I can now add "(legal) arsonist" to my resume.
I literally burned down a house Saturday. In my defense, a fire department made me do it.

My handiwork
I was in the mountains of Kentucky this weekend as part of my Global Disasters Nursing graduate class, which I'm taking as an elective for my master's degree. The interdisciplinary course is the result of a huge grant the University of Tennessee received to improve the community wellness and disaster preparedness of Clay County, KY. The county is one of the most remote in the state and ranks near the bottom of Kentucky counties on major health indicators. Most of the residents live in hollows and are ill-equipped to deal with a disaster because of poor housing, poverty, terrible infrastructure, limited resources and lack of disaster education.

The community experienced a massive flood last April, the results of which are still evident in unstable foundations, mildewed walls and rotting floors of many homes. Nursing and architecture students and I, a public administration student, did home and health assessments this weekend to gauge the most critical needs of the residents. The data will be analyzed and will provide info to UT and Clay County Emergency Management folks on how to move forward.

So what did all this have to do with me becoming a fire bug? Well, we met up with a fire department to discuss potential partnerships and projects to help them better address the emergency needs of Clay County. We came upon the volunteer fire fighters as they were preparing a condemned house for a controlled burn for training exercises. Turns out per their policy, they're not allowed to set fire to anything--even for training. They typically use a volunteer. Cue, Lola. I promptly offered my services. They suited me up, showed me what to do and boom! (Well, not really a boom. Since it was a controlled burn, the fire chief and I had plenty of time to get out of the house. I gleefully tossed a lit paper napkin onto a pile of wood doused in some gasoline near the second floor and then promptly made my exit.)

No tellin' what you'll get into when you're in Kentucky.

A (legal) fire bug in the making.
dun dun duuuun!!

We had to go before it was fully engulfed. :(
I did it!
More pictures and videos here.


  1. I LOVE this!! I totally would have volunteered, too. You are so much fun.

  2. Thanks, girl! It was quite the adventure! :)

  3. That is far too much fun to be having in a for-credit class!