Hoarding conditions blocked firefighters’ entry in fatal Marshalltown house fire

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — A fire early Sunday claimed the life of a 71-year-old Marshalltown man. At 5 a.m., firefighters were called to 808 N. Center Street in Marshalltown. Police reported that flames and smoke were coming from the house.

“Upon arrival we tried to gain entry into the building. However, with the hoarding conditions that existed inside the building, we had very limited access and couldn’t get in initially,” said Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson.

The chief said the front and back entrances to the home were both blocked.

“We took out a window and started extinguishing the fire from the outside. We were eventually able to gain access and entry into the building. We very quickly located the deceased male inside,” said Rierson.

Neighbors said the fire victim had been repairing lawnmowers at the house for about 20 years. The neighbors near the house were not able to save the life of the man.

“The neighbors heard him calling for help and pounding on the wall but they couldn’t get him out,” said Rierson.

As of Monday, the investigation into the cause of the fire was still ongoing. The fire chief said his department was not aware of the hoarding situation at the home, prior to the fire.

“Hoarding is a difficult situation because it’s more of a psychological issue with the people that hoard, so it goes beyond just trying to make sure that there’s a door open or an exit way out of the building,” said Rierson. “It’s a danger for our fire crews going inside trying to locate people, especially depending on what the extent of the situation is on the inside of the building.”

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