Article originally sourced from Herald Mail Media
"Fire officials are warning residents about the dangers of hoarding after a property strewn with junk hindered firefighters from battling a blaze Saturday afternoon at a home on Broadfording Church Road near Hagerstown.
Capt. Keith Hose of the Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. said Tuesday that in addition to junk causing narrow pathways leading up to the house, firefighters saw items inside that were piled up to chest level.
As a result, Hose said he deemed the scene too dangerous to send firefighters inside.
"I won't put my guys in jeopardy for a situation like that," he said.
The Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office said in a news release that the cause of the fire at 13742 Broadfording Church Road still is under investigation.
The fire started on the first floor of the two-story house and caused an estimated $100,000 in damages to the structure and $30,000 to its contents, the release said.
It took more than 60 firefighters about 90 minutes to bring the blaze under control.
The fire marshal's office said the owner of the house, Stephen Arthur Secor, was able to escape and was being assisted with living arrangements by his brother.
In addition to hindering firefighters, Hose said hoarded junk creates fuel for a fire to burn and puts extra weight on floors, which are more susceptible to collapsing in the event of a fire.
He said in the case of Saturday's fire, the second floor collapsed onto the first.
"Floors are not designed to hold all that weight," Hose said.
Hagerstown Fire Chief Steve Lohr agreed.
He said city firefighters have responded to multiple fires over the past several years where hoarding hindered firefighting operations.
"It's been a common theme here in fires in the city," he said.
Lohr said firefighters who enter a house where hoarding is present run the risk of items falling on them. It also is difficult to get access through the structure because of narrow, smoke-filled passageways.
"You can't do a wall-to-wall search just because of the things that are piled up," he said.
Lohr said he is not sure what causes people to become hoarders. But in some cases, he has seen people of low economic means pile into small houses with all of their belongings.
The chief said he believes the city's code officers do a good job enforcing the removal of outside junk, but, in many cases, people get around it by using their garages as spaces to store excess clutter."