Firefighters Discover Body, “Hoarding Conditions” After House Fire

The body of a woman in her 70s was found inside the single-story Costa Mesa home

The body of a woman in her 70s was discovered Tuesday after firefighters extinguished a fire at the victim's Costa Mesa home, where crews encountered "hoarding conditions."

It was no secret among neighbors that she rarely threw anything away and had a hard time keeping the front of her house tidy, according to some residents.

The homeowner was cited on several occasions, including in June 2012 for failing to maintain landscaping in a healthy condition, according to court documents obtained by NBC4.

The fire was reported at 6:30 a.m. in the 1600 block of Oahu Place.

Firefighters found the victim, identified only as a woman in her 70s, in a front bedroom, according to the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

By Tuesday afternoon, investigators confirmed the fire started in the woman's bedroom. Authorities did not immediately determine a cause of death.

Firefighters encountered "hoarding conditions" when they arrived and found a body.

Fire officials said crews found piles of clothes, photo albums, memorabilia and other items in the garage. Crews also encountered many items stored in the woman's bedroom, which hindered their efforts in finding the woman's body, buried underneath debris.

"Where she was found with all the stuff, it's hard to know if she succumbed to the smoke prior to," said Fred Seguin, deputy chief of the Costa Mesa Fire Department. "We are unsure if there was a working smoke detector in the home or if she had one."

A male in his late 30s or early 40s who may have been the woman's roommate alerted fire crews that the woman was inside the home. It's unclear whether he was inside the home at the time of the fire. The man was not injured.

"We all believed she was a hoarder," said Doug Stewart, a neighbor. "I think I saw a trash can in front of the house on trash pick up days maybe twice in the last three years."

NBC4's Nyree Arabian contributed to this report.

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