msnbc.com news services
updated 12/20/2011 1:45:54 PM ET 2011-12-20T18:45:54

A three-alarm blaze in the home of a New Jersey hoarder has injured 11 firefighters, most of them from throwing piles of heavy debris.

Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost told The Record that Tuesday morning's blaze was one of the most dangerous fires he has seen.

“We are lucky that a firefighter did not get killed,” Trentacost said.

The chief says one firefighter was taken to the hospital for back and leg pain after he tripped and fell inside the home. Ten others sustained pulled shoulders and sore backs from throwing piles of debris out the windows.

“This is a horrible case of hoarding,” Trentacost said. “Each floor was worse than the others … I don’t know how anybody could have lived in that house.”

The homeowner, a woman who was not immediately identified, was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, and treated for smoke inhalation. She was later released.

Trentacost told the newspaper that animal control had been aware the homeowner had 20 to 30 cats living on the property. Earlier, reports indicated that up to 20 cats had been killed in the fire, but officials said they were unsure of the pets' fate.

Officials are trying to determine what caused the fire.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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