Entertainment

Paradise wildfire: Are HGTV ‘Rustic Rehab’ stars David and Chenoa Rivera safe?

Chenoa, left, and David Rivera are the hosts of the new HGTV series “Rustic Rehab.” The couple flip homes in the small town of Paradise, California.
Chenoa, left, and David Rivera are the hosts of the new HGTV series “Rustic Rehab.” The couple flip homes in the small town of Paradise, California. Marketplace Events

NOTE: We interviewed David and Chenoa Rivera this summer about their HGTV show and their town of Paradise, California. Reports are that the recent “Camp Fire” in California has pretty much destroyed Paradise, with 56 fatalities currently reported for Butte County. Fans have reached out to HGTV on social media for updates on the couple, but there has been no response from the network.

Chenoa Rivera has an Instagram account and has posted a few updates since the fire. On Saturday, she posted a photo that showed fires burning in the distance and the message: “Praying for all the people in and around Paradise. We are safe, waiting on one more family member stuck by the hospital. Things are just things. But please god help the people to safety!!”

On Wednesday night, Chenoa posted a short video of her husband exercising with their young son, and the message: “Finding joy in the little things. Our family is safe. We have secured housing until we can go home... And you all know daddy loves to workout!! You cannot be fearful and grateful at the same time!!”

Below is the story from our September interview with David and Chenoa. In the interview, they spoke about their “Rustic Rehab” show on HGTV and about the town of Paradise. It originally published Sept. 25, 2018. If we get updates from the couple, we will post them here.

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“Telegenic couples flipping homes” has become its own genre of television, with each show relying on its own spin to try to set itself apart. The new HGTV series “Rustic Rehab” features Chenoa and David Rivera — some have compared them to former HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines (“Fixer Upper”) — making over homes in California, and it has hit on something refreshing and rare: affordability.

The Riveras flip homes in Paradise, a town of about 26,000 people in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Most of the homes they flip there sell in the mid-$200,000s.

That means the couple, who live in Paradise with their four children (ages 1 to 20), are working with the kinds of budgets that most viewers can relate to.

“We’re not in a big town so we don’t have a huge profit margin to work with, so every dollar counts,” Chenoa said in an interview with The News & Observer. “We’re very cost-effective. We try to be as thrifty as possible, so if we can salvage something, we definitely do that over buying something new.”

Chenoa points out that most of the homes they remodel in their town about an hour north of Sacramento are bungalows and cabins that are sometimes a little neglected. That can mean big-dollar repairs right off the bat, which also means they have to be very smart about the way they spend their other dollars.

For instance, Chenoa says Paradise is one of the last towns in their area not on a city sewer system, so there are a lot of bad septic tanks that need to be replaced. Then there’s the aged electrical and plumbing systems, the animals, the termite damage and the weathering from lots of rain and snow.

David echoed the strain of tackling older, neglected properties, but said there’s an upside.

“One of the things we love about it is because they are older houses we can kind of keep some of the old charm that they have,” he said. “We can modernize it a little bit, so it’s a combination of both.”

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Rustic appeal

David handles the construction side of their business, and Chenoa deals with design and real estate. Her design aesthetic is in keeping with the surroundings: rustic, but neutral enough for wide appeal.

“I try to incorporate the scenery as far as bringing that into the house and the space, so a lot of natural earth tone color palates,” she said. “And anytime I can, I’ll incorporate wood beams or keep the existing wood ceilings and kind of stick with that more mountainside cabin look. There aren’t a lot of modern spaces up here.”

Chenoa said people who watch the show will see that they can take any type of home and make small improvements to increase the home’s value and comfort, with projects like revamping kitchen cabinets, painting fireplaces and other DIY tips.

“When people see our show, they’ll understand that we appeal to the masses,” David added. “We’re fun, outgoing people, and we’re simple. We’re working on really tight budgets when we’re remodeling these houses, so we try to salvage and keep stuff. I think it’s appealing to everyone.”

Watch ‘Rustic Rehab’

New episodes of “Rustic Rehab” air at 8 p.m. on Thursdays on HGTV.

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