While something fails something else goes well
Piet Lenssen experienced an anxious event at the end of September 2015. A fire that could have had major consequences for the museum. Below he describes his experiences and the event.
In the early years of the museum, the question arose of how we would arrange burglary and fire prevention. The museum was secluded and not fenced by a fence. A direct fire and burglary report to the police and fire brigade was too costly.
A fire and burglary notification system was therefore installed that forwarded the alarm messages by telephone to four nearby volunteers. In order they were Harrie Litjens, Piet Lenssen, Michel Keijsers and Jac Wijnen. In the absence of one of these persons, the alarm message automatically proceeded to the next.
In practice, in the event of a burglary or fire alarm, two people sometimes rushed to the museum, even in the middle of the night. Often the false alarm turned out to be and the cause of the burglar alarm was difficult to determine. Several times I (Piet Lenssen) had to go to a burglary report alone in the middle of the night, after some time assistance sometimes came.
Not a pleasant job
The alarm system switched on the total lighting of the building. The first thing to look out for was whether there were any suspicious cars parked in the area. And then immediately go in and turn off the wailing siren. Then walk around and check toilets to make sure there was no sneaker present. That was not a pleasant activity. Finally, in case of a false alarm, you had to turn the alarm back on and you could go home.
In case of thunderstorms, the fire alarm could go off several times during the night. After inspection or if we did not see any smoke or fire we went home again. On the monitor we could later see in which building the detectors were activated. In case of heavy thunderstorms in the middle of the night it was an exciting affair, then I did not go by bike but by car, which was safer.
When I heard a burglar alarm, I came to the museum once and found the door wide open. Had the burglar fled quickly? That wasn’t clear but we didn’t miss any stuff.
It was the end of September 2015 when towards evening the fire alarm went off with the familiar voice “There is a fire at museum de Locht”. Harrie Litjens was no longer in office, so I was the first to receive the notification.
The first thing I thought: “It must be a false alarm”. Still, I went there quickly. At the entrance at the Spieker there was nothing to see, everything okay. Then towards the Inn, it was already starting to get dark and I saw some light at the bottom of the Inn. Furthermore, it was dark behind the windows. Later it turned out that there was already smoke in that room. I entered the back through the potting shed. The light was turned on by the alarm and I immediately noticed that there was a little smoke hanging against the ceiling in the upper left corner. I ran back to the museum entrance to call 112. There were no flames yet, but there was definitely an indoor fire going on. After this I went back outside towards the inn. There was also clear smoke and at the bottom of the ground there was fire at the level of the buffet.
I walked back to the Spieker entrance to call the administrator Will Thijssen and also Henk Kemperman. When I came out again, the siren of the fire brigade could already be heard from Lottum. This sounded like music to my ears so soon after the notification. To better see what was going on, I walked along the garden towards the Koppertweg to see if there was more to see on that side. I was shocked when I walked past the long-gabled farm. There was smoke rising along the entire length of the building near the gutters and the ridge. That looked awful.
At the back I opened the gate and at the same time a police car came from the Koppertweg. I immediately asked the policeman: “Can you take care of the fire brigade there by the road and send them here, here it is to do!” After all, it was possible that the fire brigade would go to the new entrance on the Broekhuizerdijk and that would certainly mean a loss of time.
Everything went fast, within minutes the fire truck stopped at the back entrance, at the large round doors. A fire hose was quickly unrolled. I opened the wooden door and behind it the 2nd glass door and said there were no people and gas cylinders inside. And I mentioned that five meters away there was a sliding door with a lever. The interior was filled with smoke. A few seconds later I heard all the spraying towards the buffet, the inner fire was quickly extinguished. There was also a lot of spraying all around and fortunately the wooden ceiling had not yet caught fire.
Afterwards I heard from the fire brigade that it had been critical, there had already been a high degree of heat inside.
A stroke of luck in the accident
It turned out that the fire had started in the cooling of the buffet and that a water pipe had come loose due to the heat. This had partially smothered the fire, but this had also created a lot of smoke. The mass of smoke had filled the entire ceiling and smoke was coming out everywhere.
After the danger had passed, the fire brigade installed a mobile fan to blow the smoke out. It was difficult to get the upper floor free of smoke because there are few windows there. After another check upstairs in the attic, the burnt-out buffet was demolished and thrown out into the courtyard through a window and sprayed wet again. The entire building had suffered enormous smoke damage, including the objects on display. A cleaning company from Weert has been working for more than two months, sometimes with ten or more people, to get everything back in order. Part of the inventory has also been transported for a thorough cleaning at the company.
It was a coincidence that two days later an appointment was scheduled for a museum visit of a group of 300 people. What to do, after all, the inn had become unusable due to the fire. After much consultation, a large tent was ordered that evening to cover the entire new terrace. The agreement with the large group could continue because of this decision.
All activities in the fall could also use the tent. For example, group visits, the Slaughter Day and the crafts demonstrations could all take place.
In retrospect, the fire was an anxious event, but I have great admiration and appreciation for the firefighters of Lottum, who were so quickly present at the scene of the disaster. Without them, not much would have remained of the wooden buildings, the inn and the long-gabled farm, or the historic beginning of the museum.