RICHMOND -- The city's battle against blight brought heavy equipment into the Iron Triangle on Thursday morning.

Code Enforcement workers and a private contractor used an excavator and dump trucks to smash and haul away a 104-year-old vacant house that had become an eyesore and public safety hazard.

"This structure had to come down," Richmond Code Enforcement Director Tim Higares said. "It's been a hazard here for years, and there are others we are going to take down, too."

The house, at the corner of Second Street and Chanslor Avenue, was abandoned when the owners walked away from their mortgage in 2008, Higares said. It caught fire twice, probably torched by transients.

Miguel Sanchez, with Paz Demolition, hoses down the debris of a blighted property as it undergoes demolition in Richmond, Calif. on Thursday, March 21,
Miguel Sanchez, with Paz Demolition, hoses down the debris of a blighted property as it undergoes demolition in Richmond, Calif. on Thursday, March 21, 2013. The property, at 127 Chanslor Ave., was one of the city's most dilapidated. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

The blackened siding and rotted wood crumbled easily against the excavator's steel claw.

The city hired Peninsula Hauling and Demolition of San Carlos to take down the structure, and Code Enforcement workers hauled off the rubble. The operation cost about $20,000, Higares said, and will be paid for by Wells Fargo, the holder of the defaulted mortgage.

Higares said the city is in the process of condemning and gaining clearance to demolish four other abandoned homes in the city, including houses in the Iron Triangle, North Richmond and Parchester Village.

But Thursday's demolition, the city's first since at least 2008, Higares said, represents the latest efforts by Code Enforcement to crack down on blight and unattended, unkempt properties.

"We come after properties like this," said Trisha Aljoe, the city prosecutor. "Blight is a health and safety hazard and affects property values. Addressing this is what we do."

Higares said neighbors were "overjoyed" when informed that the house at 127 Chanslor would be demolished. No neighbors were seen watching the early morning demolition.

A picture of the demolition posted on Facebook on Thursday prompted Richmond resident Christian Wimmer to write, "Glad to finally see that burnt out house come down."

Not everyone is pleased with Code Enforcement's aggressive efforts.

"This department is going a little crazy," said Councilman Corky Boozé, who is in his own dispute with the department over an auto storage yard he operates. "They have all the money and all the attorneys, and they are pushing property owners around. In the end, what they did today just gives us another vacant lot."

Higares said a vacant lot is also a "nuisance" but expressed hope that new construction would occur.

Code Enforcement Officer Eva Mann said there are about 70 abandoned houses in the Iron Triangle section of Richmond in various states of dilapidation.

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.