Hoarding conditions hamper crews fighting deadly Kzoo fire

West Walnut Street fire
Firefighters remain on the scene of a deadly house fire on West Walnut Street in Kalamazoo, hours after the fire was reported. (March 21, 2017)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — An elderly man is believed to be the victim in a deadly fire at the home he lived in for decades.

The fire in the 700 block of W. Walnut Street near Locust Street in Kalamazoo was reported at 7:21 a.m. Tuesday, Kalamazoo Public Safety officials said.

Investigators say “hoarding conditions” and intense smoke and flames forced firefighters out of the residence shortly after they went inside. It would be an hour before they could get back inside. It was too late for the victim.

Wednesday, authorities identified the victim as 85-year-old William Hull.

West Walnut Street fire
Firefighters remain on the scene of a deadly house fire on West Walnut Street in Kalamazoo, hours after the fire was reported. (March 21, 2017)

“There was smoke coming out of every window,” said Hannah McNeil, who lives across the street from the home.

As of late Tuesday afternoon investigators had not announced what caused the fire. Michigan State Police and Kalamazoo Public Safety investigators were on scene for hours after the fire was extinguished.

Neighbors say they could tell how much stuff was inside the home from the outside. It was clear there was a hoarding problem for years, they said.

“We’ve had the conversation before that we thought that might be a fire hazard or something like this might happen and it would be difficult to get in,” said Catherine Carter, who lives near the scene of the fire. “It’s tragic to see that it actually did happen.”

Kalamazoo authorities said an autopsy would be performed to determine what killed Hull. They said the investigation into where the fire started and how remained underway.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call Kalamazoo Public Safety at 269.337.8994 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.