House fire reveals the dangers of hoarding

By Alyssa Donovan

January 14, 2013 Updated Jan 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM CDT

PEKIN, Ill.-- The home that stood at 206 Cottage Grove Avenue is now just a pile of debris.

The house caught fire early Sunday morning. Pekin Firefighters were on the scene for 12 hours and were forced to demolish the home to search for the victims buried inside.

They uncovered the bodies of Sam and Barbara Garland later that night.

Deputy Fire Chief Brian Cox says the amount of personal property in the house made it impossible to get inside.

"The front door was completely blocked. From what I understand the upstairs of the house was just packed to the ceiling with stuff," said Cox.

Cox says the fire originated in the basement, but the cause is unknown. All of the evidence was destroyed in the flames.

Family members mentioned Sam Garland had bought a space heater, but wasn't sure where he'd be able to plug it in.

"In digging through everything we found numerous extension cords, so if they plugged a space heater into an extension cord and it was fishing through all their stuff creating heat, than there is a good possibility that contributed to it," said Cox.

Family members say that the couple had accumulated so many belongings that their living area was confined to the basement, having only narrow walkways between the bathroom and the laundry room.

Professional Organizer Kate Varness specializes in Chronic Disorganization and the affects of hoarding.

Varness said, "It presents a very poor quality of life if people have just small paths. The Children of Hoarders has a website and they actually call those goat paths because you have to scale the clutter to get through."

Varness says people with this problem need to seek help from a mental professional, although many don't think they need it and most don't want it.

"The key factor for hoarding disorder is the inability to let go of things that most people would say aren't worth keeping," said Varness.

Also, firefighters say it is a safety issue for you and them.

"When you have that amount of stuff, you're endangering your life," said Cox.

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