It is easy to comprehend that a house filled with belongings such as books, newspapers, and plastic products has a larger amount of fuel available to burn if a fire happens. This amount of combustible material can make a fire spread rapidly preventing an occupant from escaping. Most say that fire doubles in size every 30-second, and assuming that this prediction is when normal contents are present imagine how fast a fire could develop if it has access to these combustible materials and a breath of fresh air!
This is why the family, friends, and first responders should have the same mission of helping to offer solutions to this often tragically ending problem. Offering some simple advise may not be enough to convince someone to let go of their belongings due to the complexity of this disorder, but as first responders we need to keep getting our message to these people and explain the risks associated with hoarder fires to everyone we can reach. Honesty is best and this is sometimes where we may need to be brutal explaining, “Sir or Ma’am, if your house catches on fire we may not be able to get you out”. We need to be sure to hammer home the need for there to be more than one exit in the living quarters.
Most of the time, these explanations that we offer may not be enough for someone to seek help for their affliction, we need to keep a constant stream of information to the hoarders and their family. When fires happen we all use our training and knowledge to help us through, however hoarder fires changes the complexity of the call! Hoarder fires change the complexity of our job in many ways. Here are a few suggested tips that need to be started now continued in every fire department:
Tips for Hoarder Fire Safety:
- Be understanding of the disorder
- Use EMS runs to gain access to private residences
- Contact family members
- Start a public information campaign
- Allow neighbors to report conditions
- Add clutter dangers to school programs
First Responders around the world are called upon to enter homes everywhere to assist with various types of emergencies. Hoarding, though fairly new in recognition, should be near the top of the list on the prevention detail of your fire dept. A great place to start this discussion is with the children in school. Children can be a huge influence on their parents, by adding some subtle mentions about blocked doors, windows, and clutter to your next fire prevention talk; you can start at the school age with understanding that hoarding can put occupants at a greater risk. Talking at this age will allow you to start the prevention message before the fire happens and make it safer for the occupants and firefighters.
Preventing fires is a high priority job for every fire department. Adding information to help friends, family, and occupants of hoarding conditions should be a priority of us all to help keep hoarder fires from happening.