City moves to clean up hoarder's yard

A man had to be rescued by firefighters when he became trapped by the stuff he had hoarded in his home on Mundy Avenue. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
A man had to be rescued by firefighters when he became trapped by the stuff he had hoarded in his home on Mundy Avenue.

Burnaby city hall plans to clean up the yard of a South Burnaby home which made headlines last month when the owner had to be rescued after being trapped for days under his clutter.

City staff were to ask for council's authorization Monday to clean up the property and overgrowth at 6925 Mandy Ave. which has been the subject of numerous unsightly premises complaints over the years.

Since 2000, the city has received 10 complaints about the property mainly due to materials stored in the yard. In 2006, the city ordered a cleanup of the property but after appeals to council, the owner was given deadline extensions so he could do the work himself.

He managed to bring the yard into compliance with the unsightly premises bylaw in 2007 and over the next five years city staff have kept in contact with the owner and neighbours to address neighbourhood concerns when necessary, said a city staff report.

Last July, the city received another similar complaint. "Enforcement action was initiated and staff contact with the elderly property owner led to a request for Fraser Health Authority to conduct a health assessment," the report said.

On Jan. 14, the man, who is in his 70s, had to be rescued. Someone who had not been able to reach the man for a couple of days called Burnaby RCMP noting he had been ill and had mental health issues related to hoarding.

When police officers and Burnaby Fire Department arrived, the man managed to call out to let them know he couldn't move and had been trapped under a pile of debris for days. Firefighters knocked down the door and cut him free of the clutter with a chainsaw, before he was taken to hospital with a severe injury to his leg, which had been trapped underneath him the whole time.

He was suffering from dehydration and there was reportedly no heat or electricity in the home. Police say the clutter was piled floor to ceiling in every room on both floors of the house.

The man remains in hospital, the report said. With the help of a social worker, city staff have spoken with the man to explain the necessity of the yard's cleanup.

"Staff will continue to work to facilitate the request of the property owner that prior to any cleanup, trusted neighbours be given the opportunity to collect anything that may be of value on the property and store it for him."

Engineering department staff estimate it will cost $20,000 to $25,000 to clean up the yard over two weeks, a job that may require machine and manual labour. If the cost is left unpaid by the end of the year, it will be added to the owner's property tax bill.

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