Woman, puppy escape from fire in 'cluttered' home

INDIANAPOLIS - A cluttered home impeded emergency crews' efforts today and could have posed a serious threat to the resident, firefighters said.

The Indianapolis Fire Department was alerted at 11:23 a.m. of a house fire on the 1400 block of West 33rd Street.

They arrived to find the 66-year-old homeowner and her 5-week-old Yorkshire puppy having already evacuated the building after seeing smoke and flames climbing the walls.

IFD Capt. Rita Reith said firefighters had difficulty entering the structure due to "excessive clutter," and had to remove piles of debris to even enter.

"Firefighters had difficulty entering the structure and had to remove piles of debris to even enter," Reith said in a release. "Conducting a primary and secondary search was also made difficult as the crews had to climb over debris piled feet high. In addition they found a full size working refrigerator blocking a doorway."

Reith said if the homeowner and puppy had been inside at the time of the fire, their safety and ability to evacuate "would have been severely compromised due to the blocked exit paths" and lack of working smoke detectors.

Neither the homeowner, who had lived there for 60 years, nor the puppywere injured.

Fire crews estimated damage to the home at $20,000. The cause of the fire was preliminarily believed to be electrical.

Reith encouraged anyone who believes a family member or friend to be living in an "excessive clutter" situation to call the Marion County Public Board of Health at 317-221-2150.

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