Firefighters struggle to rescue hoarder from house

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - An elderly woman pulled from a burning home by Memphis firefighters early Friday morning has died.

Esther Ray, 81, was inside the house when the fire started.  It took firefighters 20 minutes to control the flames, all while battling clothes, boxes, and years of accumulated items inside the home.

Skeeter Rutledge, Division Chief of the Memphis Fire Department, said Ray's possessions were "stacked up basically to the ceiling."

Firefighters frantically sprinted to get Ray to an awaiting ambulance, but she died at the hospital.

Rutledge said this kind of hoarding can be a problem for firefighters.

"It's a rescue problem for us," Rutledge said.  "As they go in, it's just a small path and all that debris can collapse on the firefighters.  We just advise people to be careful and make sure they have a second means of access out of their house."

Frannie Williams, Esther Ray's neighbor, said that while she did not know the woman, what she saw Friday morning was haunting.

"Terrible, really terrible," Williams said.  "I don't want to see nothing like that happen again, God rest her soul."

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