Crews: ‘hoarding’ made fatal fire harder to battle

To most of us it's just stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. But to people known to hold onto thing, also known as “hoarding,” it's much more than just stuff.

68-year-old Joe Johnson was said to be one of those people. He died in his Littlestown home after an early morning fire broke out Thursday. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but crews did tell abc27 that an overabundance of keepsakes made responding to it difficult and dangerous.

“That changes it dramatically because it changes the pathway through the home,” said York City Fire Chief, Steven Buffington.

Combustibles like newspapers or lead-based products can also, literally, add fuel to a fire.

“It's irrational but it gives them some sense of security,” said Lancaster-based therapist Jonathan Gransee.

According to Gransee, hoarding is often a symptom of an underlying disorder, or an action triggered by a traumatic event. He said it's a lifestyle that can be hard to shake.

“It's something that likely there is a genetic disposition to, or on top of it, the person was put under some sort of stress that created that certain coping mechanism,” he said.

Firefighters spend their careers training, going over maneuvers and tactics that help them save lives. But predicting obstacles inside of a person's home is an impossible task.

“Sometimes it's a sickness…people can't control the urge to collect and gather things, but in fact they are putting themselves, their family, firefighters, and other public officials at risk,” said Buffington.

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