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By Bethany Clough

1/14/2009 (6 years ago)

McClatchy Newspapers (

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) - The jaws of an excavator raised high up into the air in front of a cheering crowd before plunging through the roof of the Riojas family house Saturday.


By Bethany Clough

McClatchy Newspapers (

1/14/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in Home & Food

Demolition of the house in Fresno, Calif., is the first major step in rebuilding a new home on the site for the family chosen for ABC's hit television show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

It took mere minutes for the machine to destroy the house by punching through the roof, knocking down walls and pulling down a fence _ all while keeping a nearby bush intact.

Crews will build a 3,200-square-foot house in just 106 hours on the same lot. The new house will allow owner Mary Ann Riojas, 37 _ who was born with no legs and one stunted arm _ to maneuver easily throughout the premises in her wheelchair.

Neighbors and about 300 volunteers in hard hats _ many of them workers who will return to build the new house _ watched from across East Robinson Avenue.

Many had arrived about six hours earlier to participate in what the crew called a "Braveheart march" to the front yard, where the screaming crowd raced to the house followed by a front-end loader.

They huddled for speeches by the Riojas' friends, builders Jerry and Paula De Young and the show's host, Ty Pennington. A camera on a long arm hovered above the crowd, who did the march and many of the speeches twice for the cameras.

Neighbor Dale "Babe" Zanovich hauled a fire pit onto his driveway across the street to watch the show with neighbors. For the demolition, he climbed up a ladder onto the roof of his carport and watched from his perch on a lawn chair.

"It was wonderful, but it was awful sorrowful too," said Zanovich, who cringed along with his significant other Connie Carter as they watched a house in relatively good shape reduced to a pile of rubble.

"It's a miracle in the making," he said.

After Riojas and her four teenage children were whisked to a vacation in Colorado Thursday, workers began preparing the house for demolition.

Clothing and other personal items had been carted out.

Trace amounts of asbestos were found in the walls and flooring, so an abatement team from Parc Environmental tore out the internal plaster walls and removed much of the flooring, said construction manager Mike De Young.

Thursday, the workers dressed in white suits and purple face masks worked. Friday, they repeatedly ran in and out of the house cheering and screaming for television cameras.

At 9:30 p.m. Friday, workers discovered their first major complication: The pipe connecting the house to the main water line under the street was where the new design called for a driveway to be installed, De Young said. City crews "came out and pulled an all-nighter" to move the pipe to the other side of the yard, he said, finishing about 3 a.m.

Trucks lined the street Saturday, waiting to carry debris to a Kroeker Inc. sorting facility, where De Young said he anticipates 80 percent of it can be recycled.

He said they had hoped to donate the windows and an air-conditioning unit removed from the roof via crane, but they either did not meet current energy standards or information could not be found to see if they did, he said.

"Crash cameras" inside the house captured some of the destruction on film for the show, which will air in March.

At one point, cameras filmed host Pennington running away from the house as it collapsed. He later stood on the edge of the rubble, filming himself with a hand-held camera, a trademark feature of the show.

Volunteer Diane Fischer of Madera, Calif., was beaming after the demolition. She arrived at 5:30 a.m. to join in the march.

"It was so nice to help somebody out that is so deserving," said Fischer, who stood close to the cast in the huddle. "I got to hold Ty's camera. I was just so excited."


© 2009, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).


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