Serious Wimbledon house fire was made worse by owner’s hoarding, say officers

A serious house fire in Wimbledon today was allegedly exacerbated by the occupant’s hoarding.

The blaze broke out at a terraced house in Hardy Road at 9.45am and was tackled by 21 firefighters, who retrieved a huge collection of cardboard boxes.

A woman, named locally as Ellie Eames, 63, escaped the property by sliding down the stairs, and was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

Next door neighbour Ray Price said: “I have been writing to Merton Council for nearly two years about this, saying it is a fire hazard.

“Every time their environmental officers somehow find nothing wrong and I have been told that I am lying.”

Mr Price’s partner was in their home at the time and was unaware of the fire until a neighbour shouted at her to evacuate.

“When she opened the windows she saw the flames billowing past – luckily someone warned her,” said Mr Price.

He added his property appears to have avoided any damage from the flames but has previously been affected by mice and leaks from next door.

The blaze started upstairs, shattering all the windows as it destroyed part of the first floor and roof but firefighters were able to save the ground floor.

The fire was brought under control at 11.30am and attended by officers from New Malden, Wimbledon, Tooting and Mitcham fire stations less than an hour after a 24-hour strike ended. 

fire 2

Crew Manager Chris O’Connor said the fire investigation unit will carry out a detailed investigation but the first indications are it was accidental.

He said: “The amount of belongings in the house made it very dangerous for the person who lives there, the neighbours and ourselves.

“Hoarders need psychological help – we offer them support but they are normally very isolated and it is difficult to get them to accept it.”

London Fire Brigade offers free home fire safety visits to those at risk of hoarding and all their firefighters are trained to understand the issue.

“Hoarding is a deadly practice,” added O’Connor.

Sue Hart, of Hamilton Road, said Ms Eames lives alone and befriended many people in the area as she gave good advice and knew about housing problems.

She said: “Ellie had just recently started sorting her belongings out and getting her filing system in order.”

Other residents said this was an accident waiting to happen as Ms Eames’ hoarding tendencies were well known.

Newsagent Neil Patel called 999 at 9.45am but was told fire engines were already on their way. 

He said: “It started upstairs and was coming out of the windows – it looked like a bush fire.”

Merton Local Authority Liaison Officer said: “We are trying to establish if the resident was known to the council.”

Follow us @SW_Londoner

Related Articles