Neighbors: Elderly Man Killed In Wayland House Fire Was ‘Pack Rat’

WAYLAND (CBS) — An elderly man described by neighbors as a “pack rat” died in a fire at his home in Wayland early Friday morning.

Firefighters had a hard time getting through the front door of 85-year-old Joseph Kozlowski’s home on Gage Road, after getting a 911 call just after midnight.

“The home was extremely cluttered making an emergency escape from the home nearly impossible and making it extremely difficult for firefighters to gain entry, to conduct search and rescue, and to put out the fire,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. “Hoarding is a serious safety issue not only for the occupants of a building, but also for responding firefighters,” he added.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports

Firefighters eventually pulled Kozlowski from the home, but EMT’s were not able to revive him.

Investigators say a pile of debris on top of an extension chord forced the chord to overheat and eventually fail, sparking the fire.

Firefighters said the house was packed with an unusually large amount of storage.

“As they were moving through the house, they said that their head was hitting the ceiling because the amount of material was so high, that as he stood on top of the material he had to bend over so that his head did not hit the ceiling.  And that’s not an exaggeration,” Fire Chief Vincent Smith said.

“Stuff went in, but it didn’t come out,” neighbor Scott Hamer told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

“You know he was older, so I think he had a hard time kinda getting things out.”

A woman who lives next door said Kozlowski was reclusive and quiet.

“It was very sad. He lived here alone since the time we moved here,” Ellen Goodman told WBZ, adding that it was well known the house was filled with stuff and that Kozlowski often used an electric space heater to keep warm.

“You couldn’t believe someone was living inside there. I never, in a million years, thought it would go down like this.”

Authorities said the only utility Koslowski had was electricity.

He was a World War II veteran.

  • tsalnew

    Is it really necessary to continuously refer to this elderly gentleman as a hoarder – your headline “Hoarder Dies” is about as sad as it gets. He has a name and it is Joseph Kozlowski’s

  • Cat fight !

    I take issue with the term “pack rat”

    sometimes we acquire stuff in life and for some more than enough i think pack rat, whether coined by neighbors or emergency responders is insensitive.

    we all collect and sometimes we end up with possession’s of family members that pass that either no one wants to deal with or capable to help with and some people just end up with the lot.

    It may be a pain in the nuts for first responder to navigate clutter,,but its peoples belongings memories.. . and should be handled a bit more reverently.
    i pass, i hope its in my own home wallowing in my own stuff alone or not .

    • web

      I take issue with your name “cat fight”, not all cats fight; I take issue with ‘pain in the nuts’ as I don’t have them….you’re a little sensitive to some terms but not others.

      • Tsalnew

        But the name cat fight not defining a specific person

      • Cat fight !

        Web…. and no nuts ..hmm it is mass…..

      • Cat fight !

        so some people get it guess not all is lost

  • Secret weather blogger

    Wbz, shame on you for ridiculing this man in death just to increase readership. I always new you were low class, but this is low even for you. Disgusting!

  • Cat fight !

    Actually ill pass this one to the fine neighbors of Mr. Kozlowski , well we know the caliber of those who lived next to the man.

    would have been nicer to make friends with him less he was recluse. But still a bit more tact… yes! but yes this could have been written better.
    sorry i didn’t know him.

  • Emmit066

    How else do you describe the events & the conditions? A fire broke out in Joseph’s home. He was described as a “pack rat”. His belongings made it tough for rescuers to gain access & get him out. This is tragic because not only did someone lose their life, the scenario was preventable. May he rest easy in Heaven.

    • Tsalnew

      You could have done what whdh did and say wayland fire kills world war ii vet. Shame on WBZ

  • Emmit066

    Also, the fire chief stated “As they were moving through the house, they said that their head was hitting the ceiling because the amount of material was so high, that as he stood on top of the material he had to bend over so that his head did not hit the ceiling. And that’s not an exaggeration.” That is a lot of material, at least a few feet of material that they had to walk on.

    • Tsalnew

      There is no justification for this. The article could have been dealt with with decency. And remember he fought to give us the right to express our opinion. He’s a veteran. And he’s a dad and he’s an American. All of those were conceniently left out of the story. Do your research BZ instead of trying to sensationalize. Especially when a life is lost

      • Pat

        Well stated Tsalnew.

      • Tsalnew

        Thanks Pat. This just made me very sad

  • Cat fight !

    Its called LIFE the man made his choice . It doesn’t make this situation any more sadder if all people can do is label one as a pack rat or hoarder. . whether it was a pain in the neck for emergency sometimes that happens . they need to keep that to themselves. a man life is over , it was HIS home and his belongings .

    and i sympathise for the Man this is nothing new and IT will happen again and again. you are free do live how you choose. hopefully he was loved by someone and hope someone spent time with him .

    But to make judgment calls to how people live within their homes and use terms like that is wrong .
    so basically your just like the Government and the state take it all away and leave you with nothing.. those are the mans belongings and im sure he may have felt no issue in how he lived.

    We all die and some with more stuff.. sometimes we don’t really ask to be a warehouse, it just works out that way.. its not all bad. but to be referred as rat? just for living…

  • chris

    i agree with the first comment…come on now wbz…

    • Tsalnew

      Chris check WHDHs site. It’s as it should have been.

      At 85 there can be many reasons why a person does something – at any age for that matter. It broke my heart to see BZ define him in a way that got headlines.

  • zaug

    I think the famous hoarders “the collier brothers” in NY were much worse

  • stupid

    how is it that an elderly ww2 vet in such a wealthy town like wayland had to rely on a space heater to heat his home? his only utility was electricity? seriously. and yes shame on wbztv it would be nice to show some respect to the deceased. this sucks. hoarding is awful but not as bad as sensationalizing it in this article.Oooh and since when in the heck is there an h in extension CHORD?? quality editing.

  • web

    I think everyone is going a little crazy over the story. If WBZ wrote man dies in fire, no one would read it. Hopefully someone reads this and realizes that hoarding is a mental illness, maybe they know a relative or neighbor who hoards and this may make them more aware of how dangerous hoarding really is. It’s not wrong to mention he was a hoarder because this directly shortened his life. Yes it is very sad, but it is a fact.

    • Secret weather blogger

      WW2 VET DIES! Period, end of statement. The story was tragic enough without the judgmental characterization. Would you ridicule an Iraq War veteran? No? Didn’t think so. So, to any of you who thinks this is okay, I say F YOU!

      • web

        It’s not ridicule to call him a hoarder. He is a hoarder who happens to also be a vet. But being a vet didn’t kill him, hoarding did. It’s horrible to live and die by hoarding, but don’t dismiss it. It’s not ridicule…they didn’t say ‘stupid hoarder’ ‘smelly hoarder’..they said ‘hoarder’. Use it to help someone else that hoards, there are too many that do.

  • rob

    I think “Hoarder Dies” is pretty tacky. Stick with reporting the news.

    • web

      it is insensitive, maybe to get their point across they could have said, WWII Vet, Hoarder or something like that…just to teach people about the illness a bit and how dangerous it is.

      • Tsalnew

        Web. Do you really think their objective was to teach anyone anything??????

  • kettle1

    Seriously WBZ? Hoarder dies? What the hell is wrong with you or your “editors”? I just changed my home page to How unbearably tacky. This gentleman was a veteran and yet that’s the last sentence in your lame-ass article. How pitiful. I’m sure you just lost a few readers..

  • One guy

    Ha! Your comments are funny. If you all dislike the quality of the reporting and the insensitive headline and you think WHDH is better, then leave. Just like the people who constantly complain about the state of things in MA. Quit whining or gtfo.

    • Trafalgar


      • One guy

        Well argued. Bravo!

    • Tsalnew

      One guy. That’s a cop out. I happen to like MA. And I never complain about weather. But I came to the story to find out where in Wayland for reasons that are none of your buisiness. I do not read the enquirer because I expect trash there. I should not have to second Guess whether a story at a MAJOR Boston station would respect the trafic death of a person

  • Peanut7

    Who does the spell check on the news for this site? They need to be replaced.

  • ccb

    I agree, a poorly written and poorly edited article. Insensitive and showed no respect to the dead man or the readers of the article,

    (btw it is electrical cord)

  • Mark Twain

    and simply bad taste !
    Both the editors and writers have shown no class and have tarnished WBZ

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