GAINESVILLE, Ga (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Officials said an elderly woman was killed in a Gainesville apartment fire on Monday.
Alice Faye Law, who was in her 80s, was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center and pronounced dead, officials said.
"You can't effectively conduct a search because of the mounds of stuff that you have to get around and maneuver and that is also what causes a delay in locating the body. She was only 15 feet from the door, but she was behind some other items that were piled inside," said Division Fire Chief Keith Smith, Gainesville Fire Department.
Law’s great-niece said Law had been hoarding items in her condo since she moved to Gainesville from New York almost 20 years ago.
"We asked her not to come back to this place because we knew this was eventually going to happen. She was a hoarder," Law said.
Chief Smith said the building was unfit for human occupancy and condemned.
"The door wouldn't even open halfway when firefighters got here, so we had to remove the door from its hinges to get access inside," said Chief Smith.
"Adult Protective Services was in the process of helping her get everything cleaned out so we can get it all fixed up. But she was not supposed to be here. The place was condemned last week and they disconnected the power. But she would come here apparently used a candle to see at night," Law said.
Firefighters were unsure if anyone was in the apartment when they arrived because the apartment was so cluttered but officials said they found the woman during the secondary search only 15 feet from the door.
"Situations like this are dangerous not only for the person living inside during an emergency but for others who may be here or live in nearby apartments or condominiums. This volume of stuff just fuels the fire and that's what we had here this morning. It also makes it difficult for firefighters to do conduct their search and rescue," said Chief Smith.
"If you know a hoarder, do something. Try to do something. They may not let you, but you at least have to try because otherwise, this is what could happen," said Law.
Officials said the cause of death and the fire have not been determined but more details will be released as the investigation continues.