Hoarder pensioner, 84, dies after blaze ripped through 'tinderbox' home 'piled with junk'

A HOARDER pensioner has died after a blaze tore through his 'tinderbox' home piled with junk.

Benjamin Hutchings, 84, was found dead after a fire broke out on the ground floor of his home on Park Road, Smethwick, West Mids, last night.

Thirty-five firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak after being called at around 9pm.

Mr Hutchings was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics a short time later.

Neighbours described hearing an explosion before the blaze spread from the ground floor to the first floor of the property in a matter of minutes.

His death is not being treated as suspicious but an investigation has been launched to find out what started the blaze.

Shocked neighbours said Mr Hutchings lived alone at the three-bedroom, terraced property and was a prolific hoarder.

Piles of waste could be seen in the front garden as fire investigators examined the scene today.

One neighbour said: "He was a nice guy who lived alone and I know he collected lots of things.

"The fire service were quick and did all they could, but we know he's died and that's really horrible."

Another nearby resident added: “You can see just by looking through the front door just how much clutter there is. It goes all the way up the stairs.

"No-one knows what caused the fire but it could have been anything. It was a tinderbox – a fire waiting to happen.

"There's stuff everywhere."

A family living next door were forced to flee their home as the blaze took hold and brave residents tried to battle through the flames to reach Mr Hutchings.

Dr Moe Htay, who lives nearby, said: "We saw the fire and the flames coming out the back of the house and the next door neighbours, who are a lady and two kids, running away from the house.

"I then saw one of the neighbours break his two doors, the porch door and the door entrance to inside the house, to go in and try to save him, but they couldn't get into the house because the fire."

A West Midlands Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said: "Shortly before 8.45pm we were alerted to a severe fire on the ground and first floor of a mid-terraced property on Park Road.

"Firefighters in breathing apparatus tackled the fire using three hose reel jets. Sadly a man was discovered deceased at the property by our crews.

"After the fire was extinguished, damping down and a full inspection of the property was carried out by firefighters.

"A full investigation is being undertaken by our specialist Fire Investigation team, our thoughts are with family and friends of the deceased."

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: "Crews arrived at the scene to find a serious fire at the property, with one patient involved.

"Unfortunately, nothing could be done to save the man and he was confirmed deceased on scene."

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: "Police were called by the fire service at around 8.50pm yesterday to a house fire in Park Road, Smethwick.

"A man in his 80s was sadly declared dead at the scene.

"His death is not being treated as suspicious and has been referred to the coroner."

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