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Cluttered home hinders Baldwin firefighters

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

They couldn't get in the front door. The personal belongings were stacked several feet high and there was no way to get inside.

The garage had items piled wall to wall and lined nearly to the ceiling.

Creating a path through the garage and living room took rotating crews about 45 minutes each, as the fire burned inside.

“This was a hard one, probably one of the hardest ones I've seen. There was pretty much no way in. There was every possession he probably has been saving for 65 years in there,” Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 deputy Chief William Connors said.

A fire at a home on Green Glen Drive, which started at about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 12, took crews from eight South Hills fire departments about two hours to extinguish due to the large amount of debris and clutter located in the home, Connor said.

Firefighters at Baldwin No. 1 in the last year have seen hoarding at about one in every 10 house fires to which they respond, he said.

“It's even gone up from there,” Connors said.

Firefighters typically learn that the home is filled with rows of possessions when they open the front door, Connors said.

“It's a lot of work. You're trying to go in and just move stuff and get to the fire,” he said.

Connors said fires such as last week's have him worried about for firefighter safety.

“You can't work efficiently if you can't see where you're going or what you're doing,” he said. “A small fire like this should have taken us 10 minutes to get in and be done.”

Instead, the Green Glen fire was cleared by midnight, Connors said. The fire, which started in the back of the basement, mostly was contained because of the compacted possessions, he said.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is unknown, Connors said.

This was the second house fire in north Baldwin that crews battled Sept. 12.

No one was injured during the first house fire that day, which started just before 9:15 a.m., Baldwin No. 1 Capt. Brian Zimmerman said.

A home in the 3100 block of Vernon Avenue sustained about $30,000 worth of damage after an electrical fire that started in the second-floor bedroom, Allegheny County deputy fire marshal Gene Stouffer said. The fire was ruled accidental.

The fire took crews from six South Hills fire companies about 15 minutes to extinguish, Zimmerman said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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