Old newspaper is one of the most flammable things you can have in your basement. Couple that with a fireplace clean-out with vintage newsprint and you have the recipe for a great fire starting from the basement and working its way up.
I just can't believe the things people do in their own house. Any spark from the wood burning insert in the fireplace above this area could cause the newspaper to catch fire. If enough oxygen and newspaper is present, you can burn the house to the ground quite easily.
I told the buyer, but also told the seller that there is a serious fire hazard in the house, and should be corrected immediately! Triple yikes.
Ray Wilson is a Home Inspector, covering all of Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk), the 5 boroughs of NYC and now upstate NY. For any home inspection related questions he can be reached at Meticulous Home Inspection Corporation. He can be reached at 631-902-6761.