SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A woman was killed in a fire that happened nearly two weeks ago on West Williams Avenue. The Salt Lake City Fire Department said they could not reach the victim in time partly because of her hoarding tendencies.

Neighbors told ABC4 they tried to get the victim out of the home but couldn’t get the door open. When firefighters arrived, Captain Shaun Mumedy said they could only get the door to open a few inches. 

Mumedy said fire crews come across hoarding cases once or twice a week. On top of basic access to the home, he said these homes have a higher likelihood of catching fire because flammable materials are often pressed up against things like a stove or an overused extension cord. When these homes catch fire, they turn into tinderboxes, spreading the fire fast. 

“It does reach a certain point that can become extremely frustrating because you can’t just walk into anyone’s life and just strip them of their born rights to be able to live how they want to live,” Mumedy said. 

When Mumedy’s team comes across hoarding situations, they focus on the safety aspect, trying to find compromises such as making sure exits and things like space heaters and stoves are clear. The fire department also has a community health access team also known as CHAT, which pairs social workers with paramedics and EMT firefighters, that can help address any underlying issues. 

If you are concerned about a loved one, Mumedy recommends coming from a place of concern and not judgment. If you are not comfortable discussing the issue with that person, you can also anonymously contact your local health department. The county health department can do a welfare check and provide mental health resources if needed.