Firefighters in Furleigh Park staged a daring rescue last Wednesday night of local legend and neighborhood oddity Alfonzo Salazar when his townhouse caught fire in the early morning hours. Mr. Salazar’s home was a monument to the practice of obsessive hoarding, with items of every conceivable size, shape, and type lining each wall, making excellent kindling for the ruinous inferno.
Prior to the blaze, Mr. Salazar, 51, lived alone in his residence on Blackpool Terrace. He has not been employed for several years, though he claimed to be a professional welder in his police report. Other neighborhood residents describe him as seldom seen. “I would rate him somewhere in between harmless and snappish,” commented neighbor Lindsey Klein. “He always asks me for my old batteries.” Others said that he emerges only at night to visit the local convenience store and to rummage through trash put out for collection.
Nearly all of Mr. Salazar’s Victorian-style townhouse was destroyed. Firefighters were alerted to the blaze by a concerned neighbor but were delayed in reaching Mr. Salazar’s townhouse due to City Council President Otis Stevenson’s extensive motorcade, which had stopped for ice cream on Logan Boulevard.
In a telephone interview, Chief Fire Inspector Frank Baumer explained the prevailing theory behind the blaze: “It all started when Mr. Salazar finished his evening glass of Wild Turkey. The push cart he was using as a nightstand rolled away from his bed on the impetus of his empty glass. The cart came to a stop at the bedroom wall, which unbalanced a collection of marionettes on the other side, in turn knocking over a long row of National Geographic magazines running into the kitchen. The last National Geographic depressed the plunger on the kitchen toaster, which minutes later popped its toast, throwing the unsteady shelf of soup cans off balance, which all rolled down the damaged vent pipe onto the upturned garden hoe, which in turn rose up and set the tie rack in motion. That of course upset the stack of 78s, which disturbed the bowling ball collection, one of which rolled down the basement steps, bounced off the bedsprings, and flattened a shampoo bottle, which squirted into the open fuse box and sent a shower of sparks onto a pile of Monopoly money and ATM receipts.”
Mr. Salazar was alerted to the fire by the seventeen different smoke alarms scattered about his home. The blaze took hold quickly, blocking the front exit, but Salazar was able to fashion a gas mask from a snorkel and a bundle of pipe cleaners. He then scaled a tower of discarded Dixie cups to a skylight and waited on the roof until firefighters rescued him. The fire was extinguished after sunrise, just before it claimed a box of rare silver dollars and several bottles of long-discontinued Harrison’s Vascular Tonic.
Meanwhile, Inspector Baumer had a word of caution to other city residents with the same agglomerative spirit: “Mr. Salazar was lucky. We don’t recommend that level of hoarding. It’s just asking for trouble. At least invest in a set of Tupperware containers or a storage locker.”
Mr. Salazar was reticent in an interview held after his dramatic rescue. He appeared unfazed by the loss of his cache, excepting the loss of his Pope Paul VI commemorative plates and an unbroken chain of newspapers dating back to 1972. Referring to Council President Stevenson’s motorcade, which delayed firefighters for nearly forty-five minutes, Mr. Salazar opined, “If it weren’t for him I might still have that antique dentist’s chair.”
Asked whether he would begin hoarding again, he replied, “As long as folks are throwing out their crap, I’ll be dandy.” He was later seen collecting the pull tabs from a bag of aluminum cans set out for recycling.
– Miles Link