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A 64-year-old man who was trapped for days inside his decrepit Centerport house after hoarded junk collapsed on him was rescued by police yesterday.

Suffolk police said they received an anonymous 911 call at 3:20 a.m. asking police to check on Charles Ruoff, of 379 E. Main St. The caller said Ruoff had not been seen in several days.

The responding officer found a two-story house in a state of near-collapse: the first floor of the house, which was filled with broken furniture, crumbling cardboard, and assorted junk, had collapsed into the basement. Stairs to the second-floor had fallen apart although Ruoff had built some makeshift steps. Out back, a fallen tree leaned against the house, its branches reaching through large holes in the roof.

Officials said an officer found Ruoff, alive and calling for help, under a pile of debris in a second-floor bedroom. Ruoff said he fell about four days ago and had been unable to stand.

The state of the house, which a Huntington fire marshal condemned yesterday, shocked fire department members, who police called to help extract Ruoff from the building.

"In my fifteen years in the department, I have never seen a house this bad," said Robert Ciafardoni, second assistant chief of the Centerport Fire Department. "It's just lucky we weren't responding to a fire because a fireman could have walked through the front door and fallen into the basement."

Ciafardoni was one of 13 firefighters who worked for an hour to remove Ruoff from a second-floor bedroom he said was piled four feet deep in junk.

"There was so much debris, we couldn't get to a window," he said. "We thought about cutting a hole in a wall, but we were worried about the structural soundness of the house."

Ruoff, who was suffering from dehydration, hypothermia and abrasions, was finally removed after the firefighters installed a temporary ramp over the caved-in floor and slid Ruoff to the front door on a stretcher.

Ciafardoni said Ruoff had several pets in the house, as well as a portable heater that was out of fuel. "It's hard to comprehend, but we think he was living there." He said he believed the pets had been picked up by family members.

Officials said Ruoff was taken to the VA Medical Center in Northport. A spokesman for the facility confirmed that Ruoff was admitted yesterday but offered no other details. Attempts to reach Ruoff and family members were unsuccessful.

A neighbor said that she sometimes saw an older man come and go from the house, but was unaware that anyone lived there.
 
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