Chief: Fire victim's hoarding fueled blaze

February 21, 2011 6:23:36 PM PST
Firefighters battling a house fire in Wissonoming this morning discovered a body in the building.

Firefighters rushed to 4130 East Howell street around 7:30 a.m.

16 minutes later, the fire was under control, but it had claimed the life of the homeowner.

Neighbors have identified the victim as Robert Irvine, a Vietnam veteran who worked as a welder at the shipyard. They also believe he was a hoarder and fire officials say because of that, it took firefighters extra time to find his body in the one story house.

"The individual that was living there hoarded a lot of materials, a lot of the substance that fueled the fire. It made the search a little difficult for our people," Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Chief Ernest Hargett said.

Officials say the house was filled with trash 2-feet deep with everything from bags of little plastic rings found on milk bottles to empty cigarette cartons.

Dennis Maragliano says Irvine was a good guy, but kept to himself.

"When you looked inside of his house, it didn't look very good," Maragliano said.

There were times though that he was told to clean up his property.

"It was a fire hazard because of the houses on both sides of his," Maragliano said.

Chris Nogowski says he feels badly that he didn't do more to try and get Irvine to clean out his house.

"Last year, I went over to cut his grass and when he answered the door, I noticed [a lot of] papers on the ground he was walking on, newspapers, sales papers, and debris, and I thought that was really odd," Nogowski said.

The fire may have started from careless smoking, however, it is officially still under investigation.

Officials say there were no smoke alarms in house.