UPDATE: Hoarder rescued after being trapped under clutter

A man had to be rescued by firefighters when he became trapped by the stuff he had hoarded in his home on Mundy Avenue. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
A man had to be rescued by firefighters when he became trapped by the stuff he had hoarded in his home on Mundy Avenue.

A Burnaby senior was rescued Monday night by Burnaby firefighters who had to cut him free from his clutter with a chainsaw.

Burnaby RCMP received a call at about 10 p.m. from someone who had not been able to reach the man for a couple of days, said Corp. Dave Reid. Police were told the man was not answering his phone, had been ill and had mental health issues related to hoarding.

Burnaby Mounties went to the home in the 6900-block of Mandy Avenue with Burnaby Fire Department and an ambulance.

"We made verbal contact with the guy but he basically told us he was trapped underneath a whole pile of debris, couldn't get out, couldn't move, hadn't moved in a couple of days," Reid said.

So the rescuers kicked in the door, and firefighters used a chainsaw to cut through the clutter to get to him and free him.

The man, in his 70s, was taken to Burnaby Hospital with a "severe injury" to a leg, which had been trapped underneath him, cutting off circulation to it for a couple of days, Reid said. He was suffering from dehydration and there was reportedly no heat or electricity in the home.

"Had no one called, we would have found him down the road and it would've been a lot more tragic."

It was a serious case of hoarding, he said. The clutter was "floor to ceiling in every room, on both floors. So it was bad."

While police sometimes go into homes with a lesser degree of hoarding, "this is an extreme case, you don't see these too often."

Hoarding is a symptom of a mental illness, Reid said. If the man has no family to look after him, under the Mental Health Act, social services could get involved.

The house has been the subject of complaints in the past about unsightly premises. Inspections by city staff found the yard was overgrown and contained debris including scrap metal, used building materials, empty beverage containers, garbage, makeshift storage structures and yard waste, much of it covered by large tarps and plastic sheeting, according to a 2006 city staff report.

City staff met with the owner more than 10 times between 2003 and 2006 trying to get him to clean up the yard and comply with the unsightly premises bylaw. In the end, in 2006, Burnaby council authorized city staff to clean it up and charge it to his tax bill.

The owner appeared before council twice, appealing unsuccessfully to them to rescind the order, claiming he had "endured unnecessary stress related to the issue," according to the minutes of a 2006 council meeting.

The owner also said he "believes his property has been arranged for his best personal health and safety," the minutes said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.