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Modest home makeover promises new start for couple

Efforts to build a new home for Ricky and Brenda Hallfrisch are moving forward. Modest Home Makeover is holding a feeding frenzy fundraiser in Superior today. Construction on the new home is scheduled to begin next week. And last Saturday, the Du...

Efforts to build a new home for Ricky and Brenda Hallfrisch are moving forward.

Modest Home Makeover is holding a feeding frenzy fundraiser in Superior today. Construction on the new home is scheduled to begin next week.

And last Saturday, the Duluth Fire Department burned down the couple's old home. Built in 1925, the home was sliding off its foundation, its basement walls were caving in, it leaked like a sieve and had electrical and mold problems.

"We approached the fire department," Modest Home Makeover committee member Steve Waller said. "We knew it would be a cost effective way of doing it and that there would be a good return to the city in training."

The city fire department will not burn down structures unless there is a real training value, training officer Charlie Smith said. On Friday, he went to the house with five new firefighters, who practiced venting the building as they would at a real fire scene, breaching walls as if they were trapped or trying to reach somebody who was, breaching floors.

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On Saturday, fire crews converged on the home to burn it down. But they didn't just let it burn. They practiced a new ways to fight fires. Firefighters went inside the structure to observe how fires act.

"When we go to fires here in town - and last year we had 185 structure fires - we show and put them out right away," Smith said. "The great thing when we do these acquired structure burns is that gives us an opportunity to watch fire and how it moves through the building and how it behaves in a somewhat controlled environment. "It really is extremely valuable training."

Ricky Hallfrisch had mixed feeling watching his home burn.

"In a way it was a happy thing because me and my wife don't have to breathe in that environment anymore," he said. "In another way it was sad because I had been there 25 years and it's the home my mom pretty much grew up in. It was happy to see it go but it was sad to think of all the years I had been there."

Since being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease 39 years ago, Hallfrisch has survived four additional cancers and endured more than 20 surgeries. His health problems, which forced him to retire from his job at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, and the problems with his house were a bad combination.

Waller and others nominated the Hallfrisches for the ABC-TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which demolishes old houses and builds new ones for deserving families. When the network didn't pick the Hallfrisches, their friends decided to create "Modest Home Makeover" to raise $150,000 and build a new home for them. The group has raised more than $12,000 in case and more in donated materials so far.

"We've had a ton of in-kind materials donated," Waller said. "Cash donations are what we really need, because there is labor and some other things we have to take care of."

To help raise money, the group has fundraisers planned for tonight and in June.

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The Hallfrischs are staying with friends while Modest Home Makeover works to build them a new home.

"I would just like to say thank you to everybody and hope that they are blessed by blessing me so we can bless other people," said Ricky Hallfrisch.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
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