Watching more than 32 years of family history go up in smoke during a controlled home burn Saturday provided closure for former Hastings homeowner Paula Koch.
Koch, 60, lived in the home at the southeast corner of E Street and Chicago Avenue with her late husband, Roger, from 1974 through 2006. When they moved to Beatrice in 2006, the house was left abandoned. Despite attempts by the family to secure the residence, it was broken into several times by squatters. Feral cats also took up residence there.
After Roger died in 2008, Koch decided to surrender the home to the city rather than try to rebuild what had become an unsafe building. Her understanding is that once the property is cleared, it will be used for a Habitat for Humanity build. She came to town this week with friends and family to watch it burn.
"I wanted to tear it down," Koch said. "When we were in Beatrice, I was going to come back and try to save it, but I never did. I have a better house now."