There had been rain. There had been mud. There had even been fire.

But the big moment was finally here.

The Almquist family piled out of the limousine, as more than 1,000 spectators looked on. Chemaine Almquist hugged television host Ty Pennington as her husband Joel looked on, the youngest of the Almquist children in his arms.

The Almquists run the Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary, which takes in abused and abandoned exotic animals. But even as they've created a home for tigers, alligators, snakes, parrots and more, their own home was a leaking doublewide trailer with no heat or air-conditioning, partially held together with duct tape.

This season, the ABC television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is focusing on families who have made an impact in their community, and over the past week, the show has rallied Victor Valley volunteers to build the Almquists a new home, a learning center for visitors and an exercise area for the animals.

But it didn't come easily: In addition to the obvious difficulties presented by a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day build cycle taking place at a site with no paved roads leading to it, and a variety of builders working simultaneously, instead of in stages as they usually do, Mother Nature got in on the act. The build was already behind schedule when the heavens opened up late in the week, drenching the site in icy rain and turning those unpaved roads into mud thick and deep enough to suck off work boots.

And then there was the fire. Friday afternoon, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus was going to perform at Boulder Creek Ranch in Hesperia to raise money for Forever Wild -- and promote his new album, which will be released around the time the Extreme Makeover episode airs. Shortly before the concert was set to start, the clubhouse several hundred feet away from where he was to perform caught fire and burned down, despite the efforts of the crews of 10 fire engines.

But that was Friday.

Saturday afternoon, shortly before 5 p.m., Pennington turned toward the crowd, which had waited for hours in mud and dropping temperatures, raised one fist and led the crowd in his signature chant:

"Move that bus!"

The big black and white bus rolled forward and the Almquists had their new home.

It's a four-bedroom, three-bath, 3,300-plus square foot house, in a style that Hesperia architect Tom Steeno, who designed the building, describes as "contemporary tribal ranch." There's a brand new learning center built in the same style and a concrete playground for the animals to use, complete with a pool and waterfall.

The Almquists cried and the six hugged each other tightly.

This is the second time that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been to the Victor Valley. The show built a home for another Phelan family in 2004.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is seen locally Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on KABC 7. The episode featuring the Almquists' new home will air some time in April.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.