Hoarder Fire Survey Results



 Here are the results of the recent Hoarder fire survey sent out by the Chamber of Hoarders Staff.  Huge “thank you” to the USFA for sharing survey with the fire service community.  The response was overwhelming.

1.       Have you ever responded to a fire with Hoarder Conditions:


Yes: 100%             No   0.00%







2.       How long did it take you to realize that you were facing a hoarder house fire:


Minute: 52.4%               5 Minutes: 35.4                 Start of Overhaul: 11.0%               After Fire:2.4%







3.       Were their occupants trapped:


Yes: 11.0%           No: 89.0%







4.       Did you crew communicate to the incident commanders that they had Hoarder Conditions?


Yes: 39.0%           No: 43.9%            Not Sure: 13.4%                Didn’t Hear: 3.7%





5.       How many personnel did you have on the scene of the Hoarder Home:


5-10: 11.0%   10-20: 52.4%    20-30: 3.7%  30-40: 3.7%         50 or more:1.2%


More than normal: 6.1%






6.       How long did it take to overhaul after the fire was under control?


Longer than normal: 43.9%          10-15 Minutes: 1.2%       30-50 Minutes:  14.6%


60-90 Minutes: 14.6%                     2 Hours or More: 28.0%





7.       Was structure demolition required to extinguish the fire?


Yes: 13.6              No: 86.4%





8.       Would your department benefit from a Hoarder Training Program?


Yes: 79.3%           No: 22.0%




The numbers do not lie that we are all seeing fires in hoarder conditions.   The last two questions are coming soon.  They contained short answer questions and the responses were great.  Stay tuned in to the chamber to see the exciting answers.





 Thank you to all who took part in this survey!


welcome to the jumpseat!
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Hoarder Fires new Class Flyer

Hoarder Fires Hoarder Fires


 
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Hoarding: Dealing with the Occupant’s

While  studying Compulsive Hoarding Disorder and the effects that it has on today’s first responders one common problem keeps coming up.  Dealing with the occupants of these homes can prove to be a challenging problem  if you  are tasked with an emergency inside their Hoarded Environment.

Interaction with the people who collect, accumulate, and acquire this massive amounts of belongings can place the first responder in a different type of danger. Physical danger from the anger that someone can experience when someone touches his or her treasured belongings.  Let’s look at a few common tactics to diffuse the tension and protect ourselves from the dangers faced when interacting with the people who hoard.

[caption id="attachment_248" align="alignright" width="134"]Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire


Do not be judgmental

One of the hardest things to do as first reponders is to leave our values and opinions that we have established over the years behind when we discover a hoarding environment.  I have seen many first responders find these conditions and immediately become aggressive in telling the occupants that “this is the filthiest house ever” and “this place stinks” as they pull their shirt over their noses.

While this can be a very hard to resist it will put the occupant in a heightened state of sensitivity and can even evoke a response of anger or violence to the first responder.



By being non-judgmental and aware that hoarding is becoming a diagnosable physiological disorder we can further understand their deep attachment to their belongings.  Hoarding is not a choice and the inability to “let go” of their belongings that seem to have no apparent value to you and I can cause them be defensive and take offense to such statements if we were to make them.

Compulsive Hoarder’s have a hard time distinguishing between an object of great value, such as child’s baby pictures, and an item that has little apparent value, such as a stack of coupons.

This attachment may seem unimaginable by us but by understanding how they process this information can give us, the responders, the knowledge to be sensitive to their conditions when interacting with them.

Explain what is happening

While interacting with a person suffering from this affliction during the process of mitigating their emergency we have little choice but be direct sometimes, especially when dealing with a life or death emergency.

An example would be in the case of a medical emergency where we need access to the patient fast.  One problem with our aggressive nature is in the process of accessing the patient we may disrupt their world.

With the assigning of value to items folks who suffer from this also get angry at anyone who touch or “disrupt” their stacks of belongings .  If they watch you moving, touching, or tossing their treasures aside they can become angry with you and may even become violent.

One way of lessoning this potential is to explain your actions to the person in a sensitive manner before or during the actions.  Ma’am or Sir, I understand that this may upset you but we need to get you to the hospital as soon as possible, would be a direct statement to use in these circumstances.  While this is not an end all cure all it will help ease the tension felt by your patients in the case of removing them to an awaiting ems unit.

[caption id="attachment_159" align="alignright" width="134"]Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Dept. Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Dept.


Move them away

One type of response may require you to relocate the occupant to another location.  In the event of a fire, we may not have time to interact with the occupant. Before making this decision you will need to conduct an interview to determine if all occupants have exited the building, and which entrance do they normally use to access the building.

When hoarding takes over an occupancy it often blocks means of entry and exit causing the occupant to use a different means of access, such as a window or ladder.

Once the interview is over and the firefight has continued you may experience the occupant going through an emotional emergency.  Remember that as our firefighters are removing, throwing, and breaking through the piles of belongings the occupant sees you as hurting their treasured items.  Anger, yelling, or even physical violence can result due to their deep emotional attachment.  This is where we may need to involve neighbors, bystanders, or even the police department to help remove the occupant to insure their and our safety.  Understanding the nature of Compulsive Hoarding Disorder will allow us to understand their emotions when dealing with their stack of stuff.

 

Conclusion:

Understanding the complexity of Compulsive Hoarding Disorder will allow you insight into dealing with the men and woman who suffer from this disorder.  It has proven that hoarding can lead to a multitude of problems from health concerns to working house fires.  One problem that we should prepare for is interacting with the people who live inside these cluttered environments and develop some strategies to deal with the potential for danger to them and us. We are sworn to protect life and property our safety is always first on the list.  By safely developing a means of interaction with people who has this disorder will allow us to help everyone in and around the hoarded environment.
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Heavy Content =Not a “Normal” Fire

As I returned home from teaching the Heavy Content class to 25 firefighters from West Virginia and Ohio my phone began to ring.  “You will never believe this” was the beginning on our conversation.  Turns out that the Point Pleasant Fire Department, the host of the program, was dispatched on a confirmed working fire and they found Hoarding Conditions upon arrival.  It almost does not seem possible that they would find such a fire not more than 2 hours after sitting through the class.  Unfathomable, not really, if you think about the nature of fires in houses that have “Hoarding” or “Heavy content “inside.  Let’s take a quick review some of the more common traits found when faced with a Heavy Content fire.

Using a 380 Size up

Since taking on this topic of fighting fires in hoarding conditions I have proposed the use of a 380 degree size up, with the extra 20 degrees coming from looking in their cars.  Looking in their cars can give you a glimpse of what the interior of the house looks like.  Do I have any scientific data to back up this conclusion? Nope, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may be a duck. This is not a concrete identification factor but can lead a first arriving firefighter to suspect that the house is in the same conditions as their vehicle.  Read more Here Firehouse.com

The Structure can be weakened BEFORE the Fire

If the occupant suffers from the affliction of compulsive hoarding disorder and their collection of belongings has limited access to the load baring walls and ceilings identifying dangerous conditions can be hindered.  An example of this would be an event such as a busted water pipe.  The occupant has such emotional attachment to their belongings they are unwilling or unable to move their “stuff” to make the necessary repairs to the wall.  Often they will just shut the water off and not repair the damage.  This can lead to mold and rotting of the support system making the structure unstable even before the fire happens.

One example of this was shared where the side C firefighters attempted an interior push and noticed that the exterior wall had completely separated from the roof.  Beep, Beep, back the truck up!  This is a glaring example of why a 380-degree size up and expecting structural damage to be present once you identify the heavy content environment.   Will making this size up you should allow all firefighters to aid in the determination of instability and everyone should be in a defensive mindset from the beginning, realize that it’s not our fight, and hit it from the outside!

Call for help early

The biggest learning point for heavy content fires is the need for additional manpower.  Any first arriving firefighter who discovers hoarding conditions need to realize that the

[caption id="attachment_220" align="alignright" width="144"]Be Prepared For Overhaul Dangers Be Prepared For Overhaul Dangers


stress placed on the firefighters will be increased and needed rehab times will be longer.  What this means is that more firefighter will be needed to accomplish the task of putting the fire under control and an even larger amount will be needed once you transfer into the overhaul phase.  Stress kills firefighters, to reduce this stress in a Heavy Content environment we should call for help early.  It’s better to have a number of lawn shepherds in the area ready to do work than be pushing the crews who are already being pushed to their physical limits.

With hoarding comes some predictable findings.  These are just a few points that should be factored into any decision making process to make sure we all come home safe from fires in Heavy Content environments!  Let’s all join in the fight to make sure we all know what and how to keep our heads up and identify these firefighter dangers!
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Toronto Canada Multi Alarm Hoarder Fire 9/24/10



Highrise Fire Audio in Hoarding Conditions

Read more from Firefighting in Canada

Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek used blunt language to describe the worst hoarding fire in Canada, the September 2010 highrise fire at 200 Wellesley St. in Toronto: The tremendous growth and spread of the fire was a result of the excessive amount of combustible materials stored on the balcony and in the suite of origin . . .

 

This is a challenging fire from Toronto Canada that I use in my program.  Listen to this compelling audio as they battle Hoarding Conditions in a High Rise Structure with multiple Maydays!
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Collapse risk in Hoarding Conditions

Welcome back in the Chamber of Hoarders! Now that our California trip is over it’s time to continue our mission of protecting emergency responders from the dangers associated with Hoarding.  One of the biggest learning points given when teaching this topic is the need to double estimate burn times and assume that collapse could happen at any time, why is this?  Many factors need to be considered if you are faced with hoarding conditions and structural stability is one of the biggest. Let’s take a look at small sample of the dangers associated with the collapse risks.

Lack of Maintenance

[caption id="attachment_248" align="alignright" width="224"]Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire


 

Hoarding behavior in itself tends to add to structural instability as the occupants often feel “embarrassed” or “ashamed” about their disorder.  This will not allow them to let outsiders such as family or carpenters in to fix issues that occur as a part of normal household maintenance.  An example of this would be a busted water pipe that has been leaking for days. Most folks would take the time to pull drywall, find the problem, repair it and return it to service.  With hoarding conditions, the inability to access this problem is an huge issue on top of the fact that they will not allow a qualified construction crew into fix the problem.



Over time, the water will begin to rot away at the structural components that support the floors, walls, and/or roof.  This can put them in such a weakened state that they be in danger of collapse before the first drop of water is applied.  It can also lead to a false sense of security to the first arriving firefighters who may feel some give in the floor area and not suspect collapse could be crawling into a disaster.  Once you have made the discovery of heavy contents it should be automatically assume that the structure is in a weakened state.

Load Levels

It has been well documented that people that are afflicted with Compulsive Hoarding Disorder may assign a value to any type of object. From books and magazines to car parts, you may discover many different types of belongings hidden inside a home with hoarding conditions.  Making the determination of what is being collected will help an incident commander make a quick analysis of the potential for a life threatening collapse or the potential to NOT GO IN!

A good rule of thumb to keep everyone safe in hoarding conditions it to double the estimated burn time.  If you estimate it takes 5 minutes to discover a fire, 2 minutes to call 911, and 8 minutes to get water on the fire you should take this 15 minutes and assume that it has been burning for over 30!  This will put everyone in a defensive mindset even if you choose to go interior!

 

Structural collapse can be the most dangerous effects of a building on fire experienced by today’s firefighters. It’s our job to learn the cues and clues of a structural collapse.  It is even more important to identify hoarding conditions to make sure that we are not caught in a situation that was unstable before it caught on fire!

 

Be safe everyone and thanks for the visit to the Chamber!
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Hoarder fuels Taylor house fire



TAYLOR (WXYZ) - Authorities in Taylor battled a house fire Wednesday morning that they say was clogged with debris.

Police closed a section of Goddard Road near Oak Street around 5:30 a.m. where the home was burning. They said it looks like a hoarder may have occupied the home at one point.

The large amount of debris stored in the house fueled the fire and caused the Taylor fire chief to call for the fire marshal, a building inspector and a back-hoe.

STAY WITH WXYZ.COM AND 7 ACTION NEWS FOR UPDATES.

Read more: http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/debris-from-possible-hoarder-fuels-taylor-house-fire#ixzz2KoAYYvWW
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Hoarder News Interview



 

Check out this news interview with Ryan Pennington from ChamberofHoarders.com.  WCHS TV stopped by to interview him during his presentation of Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for firefighters.  Check out this Hoarder News Story
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Lansing Michigan "Cluttered Fire"



LANSING — A wind chill well below zero and a fire consuming a house so filled with belongings that firefighters could not safely enter it culminated in a headache for Lansing firefighters Tuesday morning.

Crews were called to a two-story house shortly before 9 a.m. in the 800 block of North Pine Street, on the northwest corner of Pine and Madison Streets, for a fire officials believe started in the kitchen.

However, crews quickly decided it was safer to stay outside the home to battle the blaze due to “a large number of belongings” throughout the home, said Lansing Fire Department Public Information Officer Eric Weber.

Read More Here
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Worst Animal Hoarding Fire

WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather

 

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - We have an update on what McKamey Animal Center has called the worst animal hoarding fire this area has ever had.


Dozens of cats died when an East Brainerd home burned Saturday.


Chattanooga firefighters say piles of clutter made getting to the fire a challenge in a house filled with at least 50 cats. They also say fecal matter covered the home. Now McKamey Animal Center is investigating to determine if animal abuse and neglect charges will be filed.


A family of four rent the Elaine Trail home in East Brainerd. The husband, wife and two sons escaped the fire unharmed, but dozens of their cats didn't.


"The majority of the cats died in the fire. We now have 17 survivors," McKamey Animal Center Director Karen Walsh said.


Those surviving cats are now quarantined at McKamey Animal Center undergoing treatment. Many are singed, shaking, and in shock after firefighters pulled them out from piles of clutter inside the burning home.


"Suffered from heat and from soot and some of them from the water. Some of them got singed. A few were burned, but they were also breathing in that smoke as well," Walsh said.


The Chattanooga Fire Department ruled the fire accidental, possibly electrical, but animal control is doing it's own investigation for animal abuse and neglect.


"Sometimes these cases aren't prosecutable. They're more of someone who needs help," Walsh said.


In Chattanooga, you're required special permits if you have more than seven cats. This family did not have those permits. Walsh says it's impossible to take care of 50 cats and that the fecal matter throughout the home likely played a role in the fire spreading so quickly.


Story from Wrcbtv.com


 
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Hoarder Fires: If you see something…Say Something

How often do you train with your portable radios? In today’s fire service most all firefighters carry portable radios, how often do you review what is important traffic.  One such transmission should be Heavy Contents. Hoarder Fire

From a street level, jumpseat riding, firefighter like me to the chief of the department allowing them all to transmit a discovery of hoarder conditions should be encouraged if you are face with an extra amount of contents, such as those found in a hoarder home.  Compulsive hoarding can be found at many different levels (1-5) that have their own characteristics.  Using you cues and clues from the first alarm to the backing in of the last truck will help you all come home safe.  Let’s take a look at vital transmitions that should be made if hoarding conditions are discovered.



1)      Blocked Entrance points:  Often in hoarding conditions entry doors and exits are no longer able to be used.  From a level 3 or above multiple doors and windows will become blocked as their hoard accumulates and block them.

2)      Overloaded yards:  Many times a hoarded environment will spill over into their yards.  These are the easiest conditions to identify, but keep in mind that building codes inside city limits front yards will not show, but backyards can.

3)      Overloaded attic spaces: In the beginning of a collection of belongings the attic space can be the beginning.  If a firefighter finds an overloaded attic space, the Heavy Content should be transmitted.

4)      Hoarded Cars: Why this is not a concrete declaration, a discovery of a hoarder condition in their car can clue you into a possible heavy content environment inside the home.

 

These are some quick tips to review with your firefighters, both young and old.  If you see something say something.  Make the call to announce a heavy content environment to everyone on scene and responding to make sure we all identify, adjust, and attack these Hoarder Fires.
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Overhauling a Hoarder Fire

One common factor that keeps coming up during the my research of fires in Hoarding conditions is the increase danger to firefighters.  One of the most dangerous times of the

[caption id="attachment_220" align="alignright" width="144"]Be Prepared For Overhaul Dangers Be Prepared For Overhaul Dangers


firefight is in the overhauling of the fire.  Once the flames have been knocked down and the process of ensuring all the smoldering fires begins firefighters can be exposed to a number of dangers.  Let us take a look at some of the dangers you may be faced with when overhauling a Hoarder Fire.

Structural Damage

A huge point of learning that I drive home during my hoarder fires class is the need of understanding that hoarding conditions can cause structural damage before the first drop of water is applied.  Cluttered houses make it near impossible to maintain, evaluate, or repair damaged support members. Common situations seen include rotting wood, termite damage, and water damage that does unnoticed for an extended amount of time. Adding to this problem is the weight of the belongings. Then expose them to fire and you have a recipe for a structural collapse in the making.

 



With these conditions in mind one of the first evaluations that needs made is the condition of the structural supports once the fire has been placed under control  Making a path that leads to an inspection point should be a top priority as ceilings need pulled and measure of burn is estimate.  There have been many occurrences of floors completely burning through floor trusses and the floor comes to rest on the hoard.  If the floor feels “spongy” in heavy contents conditions it’s time to get everyone out as this could be what’s causing the condition.

Lingering Toxins

The dangers of the byproducts of incomplete combustion, otherwise known as smoke, are hammered home to firefighters everywhere.  Exposure to these carcinogens can be at the greatest risk during the overhaul phase of a fire.  Many firefighter’s let their guard down as the smoke isn’t as thick or dense, then remove their SCBA exposing themselves to carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde, to name a few.  This danger has been addressed in many departments but in hoarding conditions, the danger is increased.  Deep seeded, smoldering piles of debris can be found hours into the overhaul process.  When “digging” in make sure to expect these toxins may be present and protect yourself by continuing to wear your SCBA.

Air monitoring a fire during the overhaul process has always been a good practice.  During overhauling a hoarder condition more monitoring can be helpful.  Due to the amount of clutter and reduced airflow each room that firefighters are working in should be monitored for air quality to insure firefighters are not being exposed.

 

PPV during Overhaul

Using PPV during this phase is another good way of removing the toxins.  Positive Pressure Ventilation is a concerning topic in hoarding conditions for two reasons. 1) Dangers of increasing the fire volume, rapidly, 2) fueling smoldering piles in different rooms.  Both of these reasons are why I have shied away from suggested using PPV.  One area that I would recommend its use is during the overhaul phase as one concern should have been illuminated. Once the “main body” of fire has been knocked down and we have switched to the overhaul phase the danger will be lessoned.

This still leaves the danger of smoldering piles of debris in multiple rooms. We should always keep this danger in our minds if PPV is chosen.  Firefighters inside the building during they overhaul phase have the chance to be trapped by fire if the smoldering pile flares up.  To insure that PPV is used safely each group overhauling should have a charged hoseline, make sure they have a secondary means of egress, and good coordination with command in the timing of PPV use.

 

Hoarder fires are NOT normal structural fires.  They are a complex fire that has many different issues that must be addressed, including the overhaul phase.  This article has covered just 3 of the many dangers.  Review these dangers with your crew to prepare them to dig in when the overhaul phase begins!  S
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Hoarding possible cause of fatal Illinois fire



Story From  Wchs6

(WEEK) Sam and Barbara Garland's Pekin, Illinois home is now just a pile of debris.

The house caught fire early Sunday morning.

Pekin Firefighters were on the scene for 12 hours, forced to demolish the home to search for the victims buried inside.

They uncovered the bodies of the Garlands later that night.

Deputy Fire Chief Brian Cox says the amount of personal property in the house made it impossible to get inside.

"The front door was completely blocked. From what I understand the upstairs of the house was just packed to the ceiling with stuff," Cox said.
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Free Webcast

  Free Webcast


Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters



Hoarder Fire


Monday January 14, 2012


1300 EDT



Sign up by sending email to:


Ryan33@suddenlink.net


Free Ebook Giveaway during Webcast

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New Mexico Hoarder Fire Death


Police ID woman found after house fire


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Albuquerque Police said the elderly woman found dead in a house fire over the weekend was the homeowner, Juanita Adams, 84.



APD is still waiting on the autopsy report to learn how she died.

The first broke out early Saturday morning at her home on Lexington Ave Northeast near Juan Tabo and Candelaria.

Arson investigators are still working to determine the cause.

Neighbors told KRQE News 13 the home had become a hub of activity recently with aquantinces of Adams' son who lived with her there.

"A lot of different vehicles all hours of the night, lot of crap going on," said Jim Bride.

This is not the first time the home has come under scrutiny in fact it has been on the city's radar since 2010 when the safe city strike force was called by neighbors.

"With regards to some hoarding and minimal housing issues," said Joe Martinez.

Read More Here

See original Story before the fire Here
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Elderly Philadelphia man killed in "Hoarder Fire"



WEST PHILADELPHIA - January 9, 2013 (WPVI) -- Officials say an elderly man has died in a fire that destroyed one home and damaged neighboring homes in Philadelphia's Parkside section early Wednesday morning.



The fire broke out around 2:15 a.m. on the 4900 block of Brown Street.

Fire crews arrived to heavy flames showing on the first floor.


The fast moving fire quickly spread to the roof and rear of the house.


Authorities believe the elderly victim may have been a hoarder. Firefighters had to fight through lots of debris while trying to extinguish the blaze.

The victim was found alone inside the house.

Investigators say, there was no evidence of working smoke detectors in the home.

Read More   Here 
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PPE punishment in Hoarder Fires

One of the common problems that you can encounter, if you choose to perform an interior attack, on a fire with hoarding conditions, is the punishment that your Personal Protective Equipment will face. Mountains of belongings offer many hazards to firefighters when a fire has occurred.  Let us look at one perspective of fighting hoarder fires, let us look at the PPE perspective as these fires can push it to the limits. Canadian Coat

As a hoarding problem begins, the levels of belongings inside a person’s house begin to pile up higher and higher.  Eventually, if uncorrected, the stacks of stuff will be at waist level or above.  This is where the problems face by firefighters is compounded by the height of the stacks.  If you are faced with a manageable fire, choose to go interior, and begin your assault you may find that a firefighter can be raised upwards of two or three feet off the ground towards the ceiling.  This practice is generally not recommended, as you may not know what types of debris you are crawling over and the weight of the firefighter could collapse the pile.  However, if you choose to crawl over these piles, which commonly occur, you are exposing yourself to temperatures that can be well over two hundred degrees hotter than floor level.



Today’s fire science teaches us that for every six inches you can see a raise in temperature of one hundred degrees.  If you choose to crawl over a pile of belongings, you are raised feet not inches.  You must consider this danger before starting the climb.  Fire conditions, spread, and smoke conditions will all factor into your decision. Remembering that smoke is where the fire is going, not where it is at, is a great way of looking at this.  If you encounter thick, black, turbulent smoke pushing out of your choice of entry you may be exposed to flashover type risks with one exception, your two feet higher.  Anyone who has been to a flashover chamber knows that this is NOT where you want to be.

 8"]What temp was this?

What temp was this?


Another contributing factor to punishment of your PPE in hoarder fires is the exposure to increase steam burns. The compression of belongings inside this type of environment makes for harder to reach, deeper seeded, sometimes smoldering type of fires.  This makes it nearly impossible to reach the seat of the fire, especially if you are crawling from another room that is filled.  This means that a fog, or steam, indirect attack may be your only choice.  If you choose to use the smaller droplets of a fog stream to fill the room and attack the fire you may not want to be inside that room as the conversion can come down right on top of you, with the one exception, that you are 2 feet closer to the ceiling.  Even the best designed turnouts have their limits and if you are on the top of a pile you may be finding yours while in a situation that is not easily escaped from.

 

Here are a few Chamber tips to help reduce exposure:

    • Use the pathways between the stacks to help insulate yourself during attack

 

    • Do Not crawl over the stacks

 

    • Use a transitional style attack, darken the fire down from the outside

 

    • Understand that if you crawl over the piles your PPE may not protect you

 

    • Ventilation can help reduce the heat level



 

 

 

Fighting fires inside hoarding conditions can be one of the most challenging fires you will ever face.  The thermal protection performance of your turnouts has been chosen for us and has its limits, by keeping your PPE’S limitations in mind it will help you prepare for the fight ahead. Properly sizing up the fire and choosing the attack method will add to the chances of a safe, effective fireground.  All decision’s should be made knowing that your crews have the potential to see a hotter fire that needs aggressive ventilation before entering.

 

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Go old School on Hoarder Fires

 

As the news came in from Maryland’s recent Hoarder fire, the images began to surface.  Their choice of High Expansion foam made for some amazing video.  The images looked like someone had put the bubble bath into a hot tub and left it on for hours.  Using foam while battling a hoarding condition can be one of the best solutions to the problem. One drawback is getting the foam on top of the piles of debris; this is where the high expansion foam comes in as it keeps filling the rooms until everything is covered.

 ]Cellar Nozzle

Cellar Nozzle


If you do not have access to this type of foam or foam at all, you may need to reach deep into your bag of tricks to pull out an oldie but goodie nozzle, the bressnan cellar nozzle! You know the nozzle that ISO has made sure we all have on our engines for years.  This type of nozzle has a great use in fighting hoarder fires.  The 360 degrees of water sprayed in small droplets will absorb heat and soak the entire area around it; one problem is how to get it above the hoard that is where we need to get creative.



 

Here are a few points in using a cellar nozzle:

    • Cut a vent hole in the attic and drop the nozzle down from the roof

 

    • Breach an exterior wall high, place through the hole

 

    • Use an exterior window and use an attic ladder to push it over the hoard.

 

    • Use a hook to push it above the hoard if inside the room



These are a few quick tips on using a cellar nozzle while dealing with a hoarder fire.  Notice one common point; we are not in the room when it goes in service.  A cellar nozzle uses the reduced airflow to “steam” the fire out. This attack has the potential to push your PPE to its’ thermal limit.  Today’s PPE has better thermal protection than ever but steam burns can be some of the most troubling.  Set the nozzle in place then back out before it goes in service to help protect from steam burns.  Once it has been operating for a few minutes watch for signs of knockdown such as white steam and changing smoke conditions and prepare to start the overhaul process.

[caption id="attachment_181" align="alignright" width="140"]Photo: Sheperdstown WV Fire Dept. Photo: Sheperdstown WV Fire Dept.


To add in the effectiveness of a cellar nozzle you should leave all the windows and doors in place as it will add to the steaming of the fire.  Thinking of hoarder fires as confined space fires with reduced airflow will put you in the mindset of using those types of tactics, especially if an interior push cannot be made. Just remember to review with your firefighters the need to pull out of a building if an interior push is blocked by hoarding conditions.  Back them out, grab the cellar nozzle, and get creative!  While it is in operation, you have time to order more resources and prepare to dig in!

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Hoarder's Conditions in Mount Rainier House Fire



From Hyattsville Fire Departments Website

JANUARY 4 -- At about 17:48, Engine and Squad 1 were dispatched to a reported house fire in the 3400 block of Webster Street, Co. 55's area.

Engine 855 arrived on the scene of a two-story duplex with smoke showing from the top floor.

Engine 801, responding as second due, picked up E855's line. Engine 855 reported back limited access due to extreme hoarder's conditions (pictured). Engine 801's crew advanced a line up a ladder to the front window to attack the fire, working with units from all companies on a coordinated operation.
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Window removal for Hoarder Fires

Often when researching fires that happen inside a hoarded environment we discover that the doors and windows are blocked with belongings.  What does this mean to us?  It means that they no longer choose to use the primary means of entrance and exit to their homes.  This can prove to be a huge challenge as we make our choice of entry points.  A recent story from Sheperdstown WV demonstrated just that.  The occupant actually had scaffolding and exterior ladders that he used as primary means of entry into the top floor of his home, as the bottom was inaccessible due to the amount of belongings.

How do we deal with this problem?

[caption id="attachment_158" align="alignright" width="240"]Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire. Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire. Click on Pic to read more...


One suggestion that I make during my class, Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters, is to make a window into a doorway and begin to remove belongings through the opening.  It has been a common practice in the fire service to use window openings for secondary means of egress and RIT removal.  Using the framing support of the window opening allows for the removal of the bottom supports without jeopardizing the integrity of the load-bearing wall.  It also makes a great wide path to begin the debris removal.



In a hoarding environment these windows can be blocked by stacks of stuff, it is important to begin the pre-overhaul process around these windows if a crew is making entry.  Pre-overhaul is the process by which the stuff is removed during the active firefighting activities in coordination with fire attack.  This activity should be performed in coordination with fire attack as it will offer increased horizontal  ventilation once the stacks are removed, making sure that we never vent behind an advancing hoseline.

Once you begin the pre-overhaul and open window areas, you should make the announcement to the interior crews. “Command to interior the window on side c has been removed and made wider for secondary means of egress, interior copies.”

[caption id="attachment_159" align="alignright" width="224"]Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Dept. Photo Courtesy of Sheperdstown Fire Dept.


These widen points of entry can also be used for fire attack purposes if a defensive attack is ordered.  Often in hoarding conditions, an interior attack is not justified due to the increased danger to firefighters.   If the risk is greater than the reward, using an outstanding fire attack should be used and by opening up the windows, you have allowed for better access of your master streams and handlines.

 

By using pre-overhaul during you r next hoarder fire, you can make an extremely dangerous fire safer.  Take time to review window removal with your crew and practice breaching this excellent point of entry.  Put it in the toolbox of skills used when you are faced with a Hoarder Fire.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when it will happen…..

 

Be safe. .
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