Archived Story

Prolific hoarder dies at the door of his burning St. Paul home

Published 12:45pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ST. PAUL — A St. Paul home packed with a hoarder’s possessions caught fire early Tuesday, leaving the man who lived there dead near a door he tried in vain to reach, authorities said.

The blaze broke out about 2:30 a.m. in the basement of the two-story home in the 1400 block of N. Hamline Avenue, killing a man in his 60s, said St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. The identity of the victim, who lived alone in the house, has yet to be released.

“The house was filled floor to ceiling with the occupant’s personal property,” Zaccard said.

The man’s propensity to hoard “probably did” contribute to his death, the fire marshal added.

“The clutter was not only a combustible for ignition, but it spread the fire faster,” Zaccard said. “[The man] got as far as the door and then collapsed. This definitely made it more risky for him.”

Firefighters put out the fire from outside the home, because “we couldn’t get in the house. It was completely filled with stuff,” the fire marshal said. They cut open a side door, and that’s where they found the occupant’s body.

The primary concern now is that the waterlogged possessions on the first floor will collapse into the basement, Zaccard said. If that does not happen, the home may not be a complete loss, he added.

Authorities have yet to determine how the fire began. Zaccard said the man was a smoker, “so we will be looking at that as a possible cause.”


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