Firefighters had to chop through the front door of a B.C. home and then cut their way across ceiling-high mounds of garbage to rescue an elderly hoarder who had been pinned under debris for at least three days.

RCMP were called to the Burnaby house, east of Vancouver, Monday night after an anxious friend reported not seeing the neighbour, in his 70s, for several days.

Police sought the aid of the Burnaby Fire Department, to help them gain entry.

Inside, they discovered "quite a mess" before uncovering the trapped man, said Assistant Fire Chief Greg Mervin.

"[They] had to dig through to find this fellow," Mervin said on Tuesday, adding the man was suffering severe dehydration.

No heat or hydro

There was neither heat nor electricity in the house.

"Had it been another day or two, with our cold temperatures, the outcome may have not been as good as it was. It was probably very rewarding for these firefighters."

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Neighbours had complained about junk piling up outside the man's home, a fire department spokesman says. (CBC)

Mervin said city bylaw officers had previously been called to the same home for complaints from neighbours about the junk piling up on the outside of the man’s property.

The fire department comes across dangerous hoarding situations about a few times a year, he said.

"I wouldn't say it's a regular occurrence," said Mervin. "There's probably a few more people out there that we don't know about. Until something happens, it's not discovered."

The man is recovering in hospital and being treated for possible circulation problems in both legs.