Not long after we wrote about the Spanaway House of Rats in January, the television reality show “Hoarding: Buried Alive” sensed ratings among the rodents.
Coupled with filth and a touch of craziness, rats proved irresistible to the producers of the Discovery Channel-backed TLC series. On Tuesday, they descended upon the home with camera crews.
They brought with them an exterminator who’d been working on the property since April 1, and a team of more than 20 – each protected by a hazardous materials suit – to clean up the property, inside and out.
“The inside is like a garbage dump,” said Mark Gore, who bought the home not far from Spanaway Lake High School with his brother in a foreclosure sale late last year.
Asked how bad it was, one crew member held his hand well above his head and said: “It’s piled this high.”
Neighbors Richard and Sharon Collins, unable to get relief from government agencies, had their gardener set traps and caught 20 rats. Exterminator Dennis Day, hired by the TV show, said he’d harvested “a high number” of them the past three weeks.
“We got most of them,” he said, “but there are still some inside. There are dead rats in there, too – and a lot of rat blood.”
How excited was the show’s camera crew? When Day came out of the house with a couple of deceased rats in a bucket, he was asked to tip the bucket so the crew could record the moment.
Dead rats! Film at 11!
Watching all this unfold from the property line between houses, neighbors shook their heads in bewilderment.
“We’ve got letters from the health department in January saying they saw no evidence of mice or rats,” Sharon Collins said. “I saw 11 of them outside my bedroom window one night. I’m the one who said they were dancing.”
New owners Mark and Tony Gore were delighted when the hoarders show offered to clean up the House of Rats in exchange for the right to film it, with the former owner on site.
“The woman’s lawyer contacted the show, and the show agreed to go in and bring things out, which would save us the time, money and effort,” Mark Gore said. “She was convinced there were treasures in the house. We agreed to let them do it. They hired the exterminator.
“Personally, I thought it would be a better show if they left the rats there.”
Both Gores came down from Vancouver, B.C., donned hazmat suits and jumped into the cleanup effort. Starting at 8:30 a.m., the crew dragged three pianos and a Dumpster full of garbage from the property.
And that was before they even entered the house.
The former owner, who told neighbors she fully intended to buy the house back once it was cleaned up, ran into the street and waved as the first Dumpster was driven away.
“Goodbye!” she called to the junk.
And yes, the camera crew ran into the street with her to capture the moment.
The show’s producers would not say when this episode will air.
“I feel for her,” Richard Collins said, “but I’m awfully glad to see this place cleaned up. I understand they’re going to take the four junked cars out of the front and backyard, too.”
Once the front door was opened, the crew went in. Soon after, Mark Gore emerged.
“It’s worse than you can imagine,” he said. “There are dead rats. There are live rats. My brother killed a three-legged rat in the kitchen.”
Then he wiped sweat from his forehead and beamed: “This is fun.”
Sharon Collins was interviewed by the show and said what she’d already told this columnist in January: She and her husband had lived in their home for 30 years, only to have the disaster next door force them indoors.
The stench of rats, rat urine and rat feces was tangible Tuesday– as it was in January. Added to it: coyote urine, sprayed by the exterminator along the property line between houses.
“That keeps the rats from crossing into their yard,” Day said.
A little after noon, the cleanup crew broke for lunch (pizza!) and stripped down to street clothes. They’d filled one huge Dumpster and two large dump trucks, and weren’t halfway through the house.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of these foreclosed homes like this, but never one this bad,” one crew member said.
As for the House of Rats, the Gore brothers say they’ll do whatever needs to be done after the cleanup ends, in hopes of renting out the property.
Would they consider renting to the former owner/hoarder?
“I’d have to think about that,” Mark Gore said.
At mid-morning, Sharon Collins shook her head.
“I feel sorry for that woman,” she said, nodding toward the owner, who was waving a golf club and leading an imaginary band. “But we’re getting our neighborhood back.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638