In a situation that a neighbor described as "heartbreaking," a 66-year-old north Brainerd woman was taken from her debris-filled home Friday by emergency personnel, including firefighters who wore self-contained breathing masks because of the stench.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said police were called at 1:36 p.m. Friday to the 300 block of North Fourth Street by a social worker who was at the home and felt the woman needed medical attention. But North Ambulance personnel had difficulty getting the woman out because the house was filled with clutter and garbage. Brainerd firefighters used shovels to create a path in the home to gain access to the woman. Bolduc said it is believed that the woman had not left her home in 1-1/2 years.
"We had our three most seasoned officers on duty and between the three of them they have 66 years of experience," Bolduc said. "And they've never seen anything this bad."
A next-door neighbor wouldn't comment Friday afternoon on the situation out of respect for her neighbor, who is also a friend.
Another neighbor, Sonya Chamberlain, who lives nearby, said she never saw the woman who lived in the home but said she always felt it might have been a situation where the homeowner was a recluse. She said the woman often had food, like pizza or Meals on Wheels meals, delivered and she'd only seen her arm extended outside the door to pick up the food deliveries. When Chamberlain would knock on the woman's door to deliver fliers about the neighborhood association, her knocks always went unanswered.
"It makes you sad, and to live like that is heartbreaking," said Chamberlain. "I didn't expect the inside would be like that. I would have had no idea."
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin, who lives about 150 feet from the home, said he had never seen any activity at the home, particularly in the last several years. He said he did not know the woman. He was home when law enforcement and emergency personnel were at the woman's home but wasn't sure what was going on.
"I think it's too bad we don't know some of our neighbors better but if you don't see them, it's hard to get to know them," said Wallin. "I've never seen anybody outside there."
"We do get calls like this from time to time, usually they stem from animal complaints, with too many animals in the home, but this was not the case," said Bolduc. "We are going to work with social services to try to remedy the problem before the person goes back into that environment. Clearly from what we saw it's not fit for a person to be living in those conditions."
Crow Wing County Social Services director Sue Beck said she could not comment on the situation because of confidentiality rights.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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