Firefighters battling a house fire in San Bruno on Tuesday morning were met with more than the usual obstacles as they tried to keep the flames from spreading to nearby homes.
The house that was burning at 2661 Fleetwood Drive was virtually surrounded by piles of clutter, fire officials said, and the neighbors' worst fears were being realized.
It didn't take firefighters long to realize they needed backup as they simply could not reach flames burning inside the home and in the attic. It took dozens of firefighters more than an hour to knock down the three-alarm blaze.
"There was just a lot of stuff stacked throughout the house and on the side of the house," San Bruno fire Chief Dave Crista said. "We had issues getting to the front and side."
And that was just the beginning. The backyard also was packed.
The home's resident told NBC Bay Area he was out shopping when the fire ignited. He said two cats were inside the house and probably did not survive.
Neighbors said all the stuff around the house had been building up for years.
"I've been walking by for the last 15 years," one neighbor said. "It's always been a junk pile there."
The backyard is full of household appliances: washers, dryers, refrigerators, a hot tub and a microwave.
One woman said of the resident, "He's a very nice man. "We've talked to him several times, but he just has a hoarding problem."
The home has been red-tagged as uninhabitable. The cause and origin of the fire were under investigation, fire officials said.