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House fires show danger of hoarding

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Buffalo: House fires show danger of hoarding
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According to fire officials, there have been a number of house fires across Western New York where hoarding has posed a danger to both firefighters and homeowners. As YNN's Kate McGowan reports, rescue crews are warning all families to clean up and plan ahead.

Late Sunday evening, two people narrowly escaped their burning home in West Seneca.

Fire officials say excessive clutter inside the house was a major concern.

"Houses filled with this kind of stuff, it's what happens, it slows everything right down," said Chief Dan Vaught of the Union Fire Company.

And just two weeks ago, a fire in a mobile home in Depew turned deadly. Firefighters tried to rescue the owner of the home, but they said he was literally trapped in piles of newspaper and garbage.

"Clean it up! If it's not there, it won't burn," said Jim Guy.

After a recent rash of house fires involving hoarding, fire officials are stressing the importance of cleaning up.

"Many of the fires we go into, we are essentially going in blindfolded. You add in compounded factors of hoarding in a residence and it's like going into a fire situation not only blindfolded, but your hands tied behind your back," said Tiger Schmittendorf, Deputy Fire Coordinator of Erie County.

Erie County fire instructor Jim Guy has been fighting fires for more than 40 years and says more than 40 percent of the time, he is dealing with a hoarding situation. He says in this case, there's greater chance for flames to grow rapidly.

"The fire has plenty of opportunity to grown unseen and travel throughout the home so that by the time it does show itself, it's far too big and grown too large to be able to put out easily," Guy said.

Officials are urging families to clean out the clutter and have at least two escape routes from each room inside their home.

"Make sure that your exits are clear so that you can move freely from your exit doors," Guy said.

"And having to discuss that with everyone in the house, and with children; that they know what to do and where to go because that is an extremely stressful situation," Schmittendorf said.

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