Knee-deep beer cans hamper firefighters battling house fire

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Hundreds of empty beer cans and other debris made it difficult for firefighters to knock down a late-night house fire and probably cost a Tempe man his home.

Crews were called out to a house in the neighborhood southwest of University Drive and Mill Avenue shortly after 11 p.m. Monday. The flames were already going strong inside the house when they got there.

When they opened the door, firefighters were confronted with a sea of beer cans that poured out the entryway. They said the cans, possibly more than 1,000 of them, came up to their knees in some places. Additional debris in the house made things even more difficult.

Steel safety bars on all of the windows were another barrier for fire crews and could have trapped them inside the burning home.

"We went around and cut all those in case there was an egress problem," said Gary Brown of the Tempe Fire Department.

The homeowner, a 30-year-old man, was not home at the time. He said he might have left a space heater running when he went out. Firefighters believe that space heater might have sparked the fire. An investigator will have to confirm that.

The man said he did have smoke detectors in the house, but had he been home, they would not have done him any good. He told 3TV's Ryan O'Donnell they did not have batteries.

As for the cans, the homeowner told O'Donnell he was simply holding on to them.

Fire crews on the scene said it was a good thing the homeowner was not there when the fire broke out because between the beer cans and debris and the bars on the windows, it was an extremely dangerous and difficult situation.

"He's very lucky," Brown said. "Especially if he had been upstairs, he would have had a hard time coming down the stairs because all of the heat and fire was going up the the stairs. He's very lucky he wasn't home."

No injuries were reported, but the home probably is a total loss.