House Fire Shows Dangers of Hoarding

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Firefighters say that clutter piled up inside a burning house in Olathe on Thursday morning made their work more difficult by forcing them to fight the blaze from the outside.

But they also say that cases like this are more common than you might think.

"The junk is pretty much piled from floor to ceiling and and from what I'm told by fire crews, it just as bad in the back of the building, " said Olathe Dept. Fire Chief Todd Hart.  "Since we couldn't make entry because of the amount of things piled up in the front, we had to mkae this an exterior attack, and one that we didn't send crew in because of the nature of what we were dealing with."

Related: Over-Packed Home Catches Fire, Sends Cats Scurrying into Street

Firefighters in surrounding communities say that problems like those encountered by firefighters on Thursday morning are all too common. The Overland Park Fire Department says that at least a couple times a month, firefighters are called to a house where hoarding causes danger to responding emergency crews.

"Very often times, whether it be ways out of the doors, windows, things like that are going to be completely covered and impossible to get out," said Overland Park firefighter Tyler Butts, who adds that it can be particularly dangerous for those living in homes overflowing with stuff. "When you think about it, you have only a minute or two to get out of your home safely if your home is on fire, and you add that clutter and that debris, that can really confuse people in the middle of the night when they do have that fire. "

Butts says that most of the hazardous homes they encounter are on medical calls.

"Often times we have to carry the patient out just due to the fact that we cannot get our bed in there and get that to them," said Butts.

According to Johnson County officials, there are currently 35 buildings flagged as dangerous due to an excessive amount of stuff. The Overland Park Fire Department says that they often call in help for the homeowners to try and reduce the risk from too much stuff.

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