Firefighters work to extinguish house fire in Olathe - KCTV5

Firefighters face extra challenges while battling house fire

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OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -

Firefighters battled the heat and a house fire Thursday morning. But that wasn't the biggest problem they were facing and neighbors said it's one they've been dealing with for years.

The problem firefighters were forced to deal with was stuff. There was so much stuff inside the home in the 400 block of South Cherry Street, just east of Kansas Avenue and the city's downtown area, crews couldn't even get inside to fight the fire

"It's just a bunch of junk, I mean it's piled up as high as the 6-foot fences," neighbor Ryan Reeves said.

"It is a hazard. It was bound to happen," neighbor Erica Kauffman said.

"The junk is pretty much piled from the floor to the ceiling," Todd Hart with the Olathe Fire Department said.

It was just after 9 a.m. when Olathe firefighters were called to the house after Reeves spotted the flames.

"I saw the smoke rolling out of the top of the house and called 911," he said.

What Reeves already knew and firefighters would quickly learn is there wasn't going to be anything routine about the fire call. Neighbors said the man who lives there has so much stuff inside his home, he is now living out of a van he parks in the driveway.

"There was just no way we could get in there," Hart said.

Sure enough, when firefighters arrived, they were forced to fight the fire from the outside. They weren't even able to get inside to make sure no one was there. Once the flames died down, they took chain saws to the house, cut out a wall and brought in bull dozers to start pulling the debris from the house. Crews said it was the only way to make sure the fire was entirely out.

"The tough part with this fire here is just getting everything out," Hart said.

The homeowner showed up as the bull dozers were tearing through his things, but he didn't want to talk. Neighbors said the problems with the house are nothing new.

"In the three years that I've been here, he digs through our trash. We'll set out new trash and we'll come in the next day and it'll be sitting in his lot," Kauffman said.

According to officials with the city of Olathe, the man has been ticketed six times in three years for property maintenance violations and currently has an open claim, which means he was told he had to clean up or face penalties.

Based on the look of the property after the fire, there isn't much left for him to sift through.

"I mean, he's a nice guy. You feel sorry for him," Kauffman said.

Firefighters have not put a dollar amount on total damage to the home.

Later in the day, the city found the property unfit for habitation and boarded it up.

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