LINWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) – A Linwood man is dead after his home, which was filled with stacks of old newspapers, books and magazines, caught fire early Wednesday morning.

Fire crews responded to the house on the 23000 block of Lyons Street just before 4 a.m. Daryl Ballman, chief of the Linwood Fire Department, said the home is a total loss.

“We couldn’t get in the front door because of all the debris,” Ballman said.

Ballman, who has been a firefighter for 13 years, said he’s never seen such a fire. The piles of debris stood 5-feet high and made it difficult for firefighters to negotiate through the home once they made their way inside.

Initially, crews battled the fire from the outside after being unable to force their way in. It was only after the home’s second floor collapsed that crews found the body of the homeowner.

Family identified the victim as Thomas Joseph Harris.

Harris’ daughter, Elizabeth Harris, said her father always had “a lot of stuff.”

“I remember stacks of old newspapers” she said. “He didn’t want to get rid of anything.”

She said her father also kept to himself. He only saw his family a handful of times in the last few years.

Neighbors said they were surprised to learn someone lived in the house.

“When we moved here the house already looked like it was vacant,” one neighbor said.

Linwood is a small city in Anoka County near East Bethel.


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