GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A woman escaped a fire inside her home that contained what firefighters described as a hoarding situation.
She was able to get out of the residence in the 1200 block of Orville Street SE in Grand Rapids on her own before firefighters arrived late Tuesday morning.
Medical personnel examined her at the scene for possible smoke inhalation and then transported her to a hospital.
Firefighters put out the flames and found mounds of items in the home in what appears to be a case of hoarding.
"This is probably years and years of stuff just built up over time," Grand Rapids Fire Department Battalion Fire Chief Margaret Felix said.
So much clutter in the house could have presented a dangerous situation for rescuers.
"On the second floor it's chest-high. On the first floor it's waist-high. And there is some aisles but, and then as firefighters walking through, it knocks the piles over so then you don't have the aisle anymore," Felix said. "The stuff that's stacked can trap us as well as trap the victim."
Firefighters told 24 Hour News 8 they couldn't force their way into some of the rooms because of items piled against the door, and that some of the items inside appeared to be new, but never used.
"They are actually valuable items. Things that you could use in the house," said GRFD Investigator Kevin Robinson.
Firefighters threw shovelfull after shovelfull of debris out of both floors of the two-story home.
Experts say hoarders tend to be excessive collectors who just can't get rid of anything. They often resent friends and family when they try to help. The hoarders don't see it as a problem -- even after something like a fire.
And it's not the first time firefighters have dealt with hoarding situations.
"It is a problem. It comes in streaks. There's pockets throughout the city that have more hoarders than others and it's just hit or miss," Felix said.
Neighbors didn't know much about the homeowner. Holly Lake and her family have lived across the street for about four years.
"We just saw her coming out to her garden. She never really had anything coming in or out of her house -- anything out of the ordinary," Lake said.
Investigators say an overloaded power strip may be to blame. It's not clear if the strip caught some of the hoarded items on fire.
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