Hoarding May Have Trapped Man in Fatal N.C. Fire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --

Police, firefighters, the State Bureau of Investigation and an arson team are investigating a deadly fire on Queens Road in Charlotte.

Police said Thomas Burgess, 55, died in the fire.

The fire started in a second-story apartment in Myers Park shortly after 7 p.m. Monday. Firefighters found Burgess' body after a second search though the apartment.

Police describe Burgess as a hoarder and said the amount of stuff inside his apartment may have kept him from making it out alive. They said they found tremendous amount of combustible materials all over his apartment.

Neighbors reportedly tried to knock on the door several times to get his attention.

A neighbor said Burgess lived in the condo for more than 16 years, and his mother lived there too until her recent death.

Robert Johnson said he was inside his apartment Monday night when he smelled something strange and went outside to see where it was coming from.

"I saw smoke just pouring out," Johnson said.

Johnson didn't know it at the time, but 55-year-old Thomas Burgess was still inside.

"I kicked the door in, but I wasn't able to get it all the way open, maybe just half cracked, just enough for me to slip in. But there was just stuff everywhere," Johnson said.

Johnson says he's been trying to come to terms with the fact that he couldn't do more to help.

"I don't think it's going to hit me until a little later," he said.

Police said the fire was likely started by an electrical problem. The fire displaced the family in the apartment below.

"Sometimes it's even difficult for us to get there quick enough to make a difference. It's never easy to lose someone in our community," said Charlotte Fire Chief Rob Brisley.

Firefighters briefly closed down Queens Road while they battled the fire.

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