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October 10, 2013

'Hoarder' found dead after home fire

TRAVERSE CITY — A man described as a “hoarder” was found dead in a burned-out Garfield Township mobile home so packed with odds and ends that his escape from the blaze may have been blocked, authorities said.

Neighbors called John David Norberg, 50, an “all-around nice guy” and a “tinkerer” who was seldom seen without a smile as he rode his bicycle to and from Cherryland Mobile Home Park on Garfield Avenue.

“He wasn’t a mean person or anything,” said Mark Shelton, who lives in a nearby mobile home. “He liked to have a drink. He liked collecting stuff; he was a ‘pack rat’ kind of person. He had an eye for the odd.”

Authorities found Norberg’s body today after fire crews extinguished a blaze that singed towering treetops ripped through his mobile home. Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Assistant Chief Terry Flynn said the fire was reported at 7:35 a.m. and consumed half the trailer by the time firefighters arrived.

“Neighbors indicated there may (have been) somebody inside,” he said. “The victim was found 4 to 5 minutes into the fire and determined to be dead.”

An investigation by Metro Fire, Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department and a state fire marshal is ongoing. Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Meachum said a cause of death hadn’t been determined and a forensic autopsy in Grand Rapids is scheduled for Friday.

Most of the fire centered in the trailer’s front living room section that was stacked with boxes and items Norberg collected. Flynn said the resident was a smoker and a “pack rat” who lived in a home with old wiring, so determining the cause was difficult.

“They’re leaning toward an accidental or not intentional (cause), but want to do a little more digging,” he said. “They have a real good indication where it started.”

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