Firefighters spent almost 14 hours at the scene of a house blaze because there was so much clutter in the property they could not tell if anyone was trapped inside.
At one point there were concerns that squatters could be trapped under mounds of furniture and antiques in the house at Four Lane Ends.
They found that the building was almost filled with furniture, antiques, newspapers and other clutter.
Although they established that the owner was not living in the house at the time, there had been reports of people breaking into the property, and they feared there could have been people squatting when it caught fire.
More engines were called from around the city, and at one point there were five fire crews, police cars and an ambulance at the property.
After hours of searching through the building they found that there was no one inside at the time and remained in the site until 11am yesterday.
A neighbour raised the alarm when she saw flames coming out of the windows.
“I saw smoke coming out of the window and round the back of the house was in flames,” said the woman, who did not want to be named.
“The fire brigade came really quickly, they were here almost as soon as I rang them.
“There were five engines here and they were there most of the night. You wouldn’t think it was a house fire, there were so many firefighters here it was more like a massive building fire.”
She thinks the house has not been lived in for more than 20 years, and has only occasionally seen the owner visit.
She said: “I knew he had quite a lot of stuff in the house, but not this much.
“It took the firefighters a long time to get the fire under control because they had so much stuff in there to get through.”
Another neighbour, Mark Smith, said: “Fire crews had trouble accessing the property via the upstairs windows as the house has been boarded up and had bars in place in some windows due to numerous break-ins to the property over the years.
“Concerned residents had reported that a pair of suspicious people had been seen around the rear of the house earlier in the day.”
Watch Commander Jamie Lister, of Fairweather Green fire station, said: “The house was absolutely full of stuff.
“Normally when you think a person could be in the house you look in each room and can say it is clear. There was so much in this house we had to go through everything before we could clear it.”