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Elderly couple dies in Long Beach house fire fueled by pack rat conditions

Fatalfire
An elderly couple died Monday in a Long Beach house fire fueled by pack rat conditions that hampered  firefighters' efforts to douse the flames and rescue the victims, officials said.

Firefighters responding about 2:40 a.m. to reports of smoke at the house at East Fifth Street and North Grand Avenue found the floors and furniture buried in the couple's possessions, with narrow pathways carved between the piles of miscellany, said Long Beach firefighter Joshua Johnson.

Firefighters had to cross an unkempt yard to get into the burning two-bedroom bungalow, Johnson said.

“There’s papers, books, old furniture, a mattress or two, bunches of clothes everywhere – stuff they had just packed up everywhere,” Johnson said.

The elderly couple, in their 70s or older, were discovered dead near the back of the house. Investigators were trying to determine the fire's cause.

-- Amina Khan

Photo: A Long Beach firefighter sifts through debris after two people were found dead in the wake of a fire that swept through a home at the corner of Fifth and Grand in Long Beach. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (8)

Hoarders?

This residence sounds like it could be the people right next door to me. Except their house hasn't gone up in flames. . .YET. I'm scared now.

Is there a phone number to call if you suspect your neighbor's pack-rat living conditions could be a fire hazard to their house and yours? I would hate to get my neighbors in trouble with the law, but after reading this article. . .

Wow, what a tragedy. It's just stuff, people! Throw it away! It's not worth losing your life over.

That is so sad. My aunt and uncle died under the same conditions. The yard was fine, inside not so much. They never got rid of anything and when the house caught on fire all the junk was fuel. He was 90 and she was 80.

this couple sounds like my older brother and his wife who can't throw anything away. They have unopened junk mail from years ago, magazines 30 years old. you get the picture. nothing we can do since that's how they are, and they get mad when one mentions about their clutter.

I knew someone who lived like that. This elderly woman had paper money between pages of books, stacks and stacks of stuff, paper money stashed everywhere. She ended up falling and breaking a hip, and we (her granddaughter and I were close friends) had to clean the kitchen (that was all the home-nursing required, imagine that!) and we found thousands and thousands of dollars that this woman probably had no idea was there. This house was definitely a fire hazard, too. Should've been condemned. When the house was sold after her death, it was sold 'as is' and the buyers must've gotten their money back if they'd sorted through the stuff. For sure, a huge chunk of it, anyway.

This is far more common than people realize. The house is well kept out front sometimes then wall to wall stuff inside. It can be a harmless way to live if it doesn't effect your neighbors and the thing you hoard isn't animals.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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