2 ‘hoarders’ die in Chesco blaze; 17 birds survive

Fire investigator interviews two women about the two residents of a house located at 1219 Gail Rd., West Goshen, who died in an overnight fire Friday, Aug. 100, 2012. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
Fire investigator interviews two women about the two residents of a house located at 1219 Gail Rd., West Goshen, who died in an overnight fire Friday, Aug. 100, 2012. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
Posted: August 11, 2012

Police have identified the elderly couple who died in a fire this morning in their cluttered Chester County home and officials have ruled the blaze was accidental.

West Goshen Township Police Lt. Gregory Stone said the victims were Robert O'Neill, 85, and his wife, Irene O'Neill, 68.

The couple died from burns and smoke inhalation, Stone said. The fire was electrical and not suspicious in origin.

Police and firemen reported the house was in deplorable condition - filled with clothes, books and magazines the two had hoarded.

Police and fire personnel were called to the two-story home in the 1200 block of Gail Road at 7:13 a.m. after a neighbor saw smoke coming from the roof and found the front door felt warm to the touch, Stone said.

Rescue workers forced their way in and found O'Neill in a rear first-floor room. His wife was found on the floor between two beds that were set up in the living room area, Stone said.

The hoarding did not cause the fire, but it made if difficult for firemen to gain entry and move around in the burning home, Stone said.

"The hoarding contributed more fuel to burn," Stone said.

The couple had been told by the township fire marshal several times to clear out the mess and clutter, he said.

In a screened-in porch to the rear of the house, rescuers found 17 pet birds alive and chirping.

The door between the porch and the house was closed, he said, which kept the smoke away from them. Several other birds in the house did not survive the fire, Stone said.

The 17 birds were removed by workers and were being examined by veterinarians at the Chester County SPCA at midday, said Rich Britton, the SPCA's spokesman.

Britton said the birds included a mix of lovebirds and parakeets. They are not up for adoption at present, he said.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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