WINDSOR — What is a struggle for some is an opportunity for others.

A condemned and abandoned home ordered demolished was burned Saturday for the ultimate in real-life firefighting drills, after use since June for practice.

Amid the snowfall, the controlled burn, permitted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, went as planned, said Windsor Fire Chief Scott Eastwood.

“Not very often do we have the luxury to have a situation like this where we have a building we can practice on and give the guys some good training,” he said. “It’s been about 10 years since the last one.”

The gift to firefighters long had been a hassle for the town.

For years officials struggled with the deteriorating, water-damaged property after its late owner, Phoebe Mary Sawtelle, moved away. Back taxes mounted and descendants were elusive.

The state declined to take the home through its receivership program for abandoned property, and the Board of Health eventually condemned the two-story wooden home at Worthington and Old Windsor Road.

Firefighters from Savoy and Worthington also participated in Saturday’s exercises, for about six hours beginning at 9 a.m.

Eastwood said that afterward, firefighters were “a lot of wet and tired folks.”

Amid training for various scenarios, Eastwood said his crew was also able to use the department’s newly acquired self-contained breathing apparatuses.

After a clean-up, a contractor will haul the debris to a DEP-approved facility for disposal. Then the town plans to auction off the lot.

Since some of the crew haven’t yet experienced a real house fire, the dwelling was an unusual opportunity, Eastwood said.

“It’s been one of those things that doesn’t fall in our laps very often.”

The Windsor Fire Department, with assistance from surrounding fire departments, performed a controlled burn of an abandoned house on Old Route 9 in East Windsor, Mass.

Video by Stephanie Zollshan.

The Berkshire Eagle 2020

Heather Bellow can be reached at

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