New York City

Hoarding Complicates Fire Rescue of 89-Year-Old Man in Bronx Apartment: FDNY

An 89-year-old man was critically injured in a Bronx apartment fire Thursday, and firefighters say the overwhelming clutter may have hampered his ability to escape. 

It's not clear what sparked the blaze in the Fenton Avenue home. Neighbor Leonard Kelly had no idea the senior lived amid so much stuff.

"He was lucky enough that it didn't reach our apartment," he said. "Sometimes you can't really look and say 'oh, he's got all this junk.' You don't really know what's going on in his head."

The man was taken to a local hospital. 

Bag after bag of accumulated belongings were loaded onto a truck in front of the building as more bundles of goods awaited disposal. 

FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard says the extreme clutter "makes the hallway small, it adds to the clutter. It makes it more difficult for the firefighters to get into the apartment to do their searches and to extinguish the fire."

Pedro Gonzalez describes his Fenton Avenue friend of 18 years as a collector, not a hoarder, though he never stepped inside his apartment.

"I remember him picking things up, and I would ask him, 'Spencer, what are you gonna do?' and he would say 'Oh, I'm going to fix it and then give it away,'" he said.

The scene and circumstances of the fire were shockingly similar to one on the Upper West Side Tuesday, when firefighters responding to an apartment fire on West End Avenue had to toss the couple's belongings onto the street below, sending debris raining onto the street below. Neighbors told NBC 4 the elderly couple who lived inside were known hoarders.

New York City's most famous hoarders, the Collyer brothers, were found dead in their Harlem brownstone back in 1947, practically buried under 100 tons of stuff they collected.

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