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Starting Over

Razing a home gutted by fire isn't a difficult task, but it isn't a quick one either, especially when the home is more than 25 years old and has asbestos materials. While it was phased out in the 1970's because of health concerns, asbestos was popular material for decades, ironically, because it was fireproof.

"Most of the time, after 1988, we can identify if there's anything laying around," says Hank Oldaker, whose Empire Builders handled the demolition project. "Usually before that, (there's a problem)."

The nation learned in January of Michael Wedekamm's heroics on The Today Show; how, using Boy Scout training, he miraculously rescued his sister when his home caught fire in late December. Even Oldaker, a retired firefighter, was impressed.

"If he had probably gotten back to the house, it probably would have taken them both. But he was smart enough to come off the front porch with that girl, and get off the roof, and I sure got to beat a drum for him."

On this day, however, Oldaker's job was to demolish the Wedekamm home. It isn't, however, totally a sad occasion. The family hopes to rebuild on the same spot as the old home.

Besides his NBC appearance, Michael Wedekamm has been honored by the city of Parkersburg for his heroics.


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