Smashy, smashy!

Tom Carpenter

Photo By Jason Cassidy

No matter how old of a grown-up you are, there’s a little kid inside who still likes to watch big machines tear things apart. Tom Carpenter, owner of Chico’s Carpenter Excavation is the grown-up inside the huge CAT excavator (demonstrating how the bucket and arm can lift up the whole vehicle). We talked with Carpenter about his work amid the rubble he’s created at the site that used to be home to JB’s Bar, Bar X liquors and more, on the corner of Vallombrosa and Mangrove.

What’s your job here?

Basically, we’re a lot development company. We’ll take down old buildings, trees, debris, concrete slabs and roads and stuff, and we’ll clear it out and get it ready for new development.

What’s the process?

First of all, we come in and we’ll survey the site, the buildings, make sure there’s no hazardous materials—asbestos, chemicals, fuel tanks, oil, various things like that. We [also] have PG&E come do a disconnect—Cal Water, phone, sewer. We’ll go into the city and get a demolition permit. Then, we’ll have a special crew come in and remove the asbestos and any type of hazardous materials. And then after that we knock down the buildings, and then we sort the material—We have a metal pile there; the trash and wood, if we can recycle it we will; the copper we recycle; the underground piping and all that stuff we put in there [too]; the trees, we go ahead and recycle those—those will go to a chipping plant.

What about the concrete?

We recycle that as well. What we do is crush that, and we put that right back into A.B. [aggregate backfill] again, and we come back and rebuild on it.

Ever find any surprises when you start tearing down a building?

We get surprised all the time. We’ve found everything from old guns to stills, to pipe bombs … We’ve found a lot of drugs, we found underground basements, tunnels.

Is it fun?

Yeah, it’s cool. It’s stressful due to the fact that you deal with big pieces of concrete and a lot of different things when you’re loading trucks. You don’t want to have any damage. You just gotta be really careful and make sure you don’t hit anything—fiber optics, gas lines, stuff like that. You always gotta be careful with what the ground’s doing. Sometimes you’ll get into soft spots—underground vaults, tanks, trenches, French drains.

How’s it make you feel to be a part of the building of your town?

It makes me feel good. We get to take down a lot of the places that are condemned, hazardous, basically kind of cleaning up certain areas.

It only takes you a few minutes to tear down something that takes months to build.

Yeah. I did a job this year in Susanville, and we took down a building that was so old—back in the 1880s—and the building was constructed out of rock and it was hand-chiseled. You can just imagine how long it would take to do something like that, and for me to come in there and in a day to tear it down. It made you feel … man, how times have changed.