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Neighbors: Elderly Man Killed In Wayland House Fire Was 'Pack Rat'

WAYLAND (CBS) — An elderly man described by neighbors as a "pack rat" died in a fire at his home in Wayland early Friday morning.

Firefighters had a hard time getting through the front door of 85-year-old Joseph Kozlowski's home on Gage Road, after getting a 911 call just after midnight.

"The home was extremely cluttered making an emergency escape from the home nearly impossible and making it extremely difficult for firefighters to gain entry, to conduct search and rescue, and to put out the fire," said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. "Hoarding is a serious safety issue not only for the occupants of a building, but also for responding firefighters," he added.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karen Twomey reports


Firefighters eventually pulled Kozlowski from the home, but EMT's were not able to revive him.

Investigators say a pile of debris on top of an extension chord forced the chord to overheat and eventually fail, sparking the fire.

Firefighters said the house was packed with an unusually large amount of storage.

"As they were moving through the house, they said that their head was hitting the ceiling because the amount of material was so high, that as he stood on top of the material he had to bend over so that his head did not hit the ceiling.  And that's not an exaggeration," Fire Chief Vincent Smith said.

"Stuff went in, but it didn't come out," neighbor Scott Hamer told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

"You know he was older, so I think he had a hard time kinda getting things out."

A woman who lives next door said Kozlowski was reclusive and quiet.

"It was very sad. He lived here alone since the time we moved here," Ellen Goodman told WBZ, adding that it was well known the house was filled with stuff and that Kozlowski often used an electric space heater to keep warm.

"You couldn't believe someone was living inside there. I never, in a million years, thought it would go down like this."

Authorities said the only utility Koslowski had was electricity.

He was a World War II veteran.

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