An East Vancouver woman narrowly escaped a two-alarm house fire Friday morning, after the items she had hoarded obstructed firefighters trying to put out the blaze.

Firefighters were called to the house on Fleming Street at 18th Avenue just after 6 a.m. PT after neighbours heard the woman screaming.

The woman had been attempting to put out the flames herself, but failed and found herself trapped in the blaze.

Capt. Gabe Roder of the Vancouver Fire Department said the woman did everything wrong.

"Instead of getting out of the house, which she should have done, and called 911 immediately, she grabbed a bucket, filled it with water and went to try to put the fire out herself," he said.

"By the time she got back to the fire, the fire had grown exponentially and in fact trapped her way out the front door."

The woman was eventually rescued from the balcony after she broke a back window. 


The woman was known to have hoarding problems before the fire (CBC)

Roder said the electrical fire was not linked to the hoarding, but the sheer number of items in the house proved a challenge for firefighters.

"There was a tremendous accumulation of items in this home... some people might call it hoarding....which made it very difficult for firefighters to gain access and also get at the fire."

Roder said the woman was identified as someone who needed help last February and the Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) was alerted.

He said the fire department also offered to install fire alarms last May but were turned down.

Since its launch in May 2011, HART has identified more than 200 homes in Vancouver where hoarding is a problem.

The project — a partnership between the City and Vancouver Coastal Health — aims to help those impacted by hoarding.