Valley fire victims: We lost everything

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Glendale Fire Department said there’s an unfortunate teaching moment in the fire that destroyed everything a Valley couple had earlier this week.

Eric Snyder and Kathy Powers were home when the fire started Monday. Neighbors woke them up and they escaped wearing nothing but underclothes.

Snyder had to be loaded into an ambulance because stress overwhelmed his weak heart. He said he’s on the Mayo Clinic heart transplant list.

Both Snyder and Powers are disabled and on a fixed income. Now they’re also homeless.

“We're devastated. We didn't deserve this,” Snyder said, surveying the burned-out shell of a trailer home that sits in the 7000 block of West Zoe Ella Way.

“We're just a young couple who’s gone through a horrible, horrible experience and if we can get anybody to help I’d appreciate it. It’s devastating,” Powers said. “We have nothing. We lost everything.”

But before the blaze firefighters said the couple had too much stuff.

“There were several rooms within [the home] that were packed floor to ceiling,” said Mike Young of the Glendale Fire Department. “That always poses a danger to us... that stuff can fall on top of us…”

Plus, said Young, having the house packed to the gills makes the fire harder to fight and harder to finish flushing out.

“Had there not been hoarder-like conditions there's always that possibility, a high possibility, that we would have been able to put it out a lot more quickly,” Young said.

The situation is so dangerous to both firefighters and residents that the department actually has a person dedicated to awareness of cluttered conditions.

“Are they personal effects from a loved one that you have? Or, trying to find an understanding behind [the items]. Hoarding is starting to become a mental illness [although] it hasn’t technically been classified yet,” Sara Steffen said.

Powers and Snyder said they had just moved in a few months back and said they were in the process of cleaning.

“There's 30 years of accumulation of things that I've had,” Snyder said, adding that many of the items are keepsakes from her mother, who passed away, and a son, who drowned.

They both agree they had too much stuff in the home but said, at this point, it doesn’t matter because now they have nothing.

“We have no clothing," said Powers, tearing up as the smell of charcoal and smoke hung around her. "We have no bedding. We have no bed. We have no furniture. We have... we don’t have anything, really,”

“We have each other,” Snyder reminded her.

“We do have each other,” she agreed as the couple shared a smile and a kiss.

Snyder and Powers said the Red Cross is putting them up in a hotel for Wednesday and Thursday night. After that, however, they’ll be living out of their car for the time being because they don't have renters insurance.

The fire department hasn’t yet released a cause of the fire but has said it started outside the house.