Don't become trapped in the Hoard!

Don't become trapped in the Hoard!

Trapped in the Hoard 

Without a doubt the number one concern of teaching firefighters about fires that occur in hoarding conditions is the potential of firefighters becoming trapped inside. While this potential is present on any type of fire, hoarding presents additional challenges.  Understanding the potential for trouble should ensure all firefighters are visiting self rescue, lost orientation, and entanglement training monthly.  Let’s face it, many of us will be lucky to review and practice these procedures yearly if at all. Let’s take a look at three processes you can review to prepare yourself. b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2371.JPG

Hoarding Concerns

As a persons home becomes full with belongings the amount of usable space is severely restricted. With this collection the potential for firefighters becoming lost inside increases. From day one most firefighters are taught orientation based on contact with a wall.  Household clutter that extends well beyond arms length from the wall is common in the hoarding conditions.  Firefighters who do not make adjustments for this danger can find themselves disoriented in a labyrinth of belongings, usually that have no secondary means of egress.  

How can this happen? Does the firefighter not see the junk?  Great questions, but there can be many factors that contribute to firefighters not seeing or suspecting clutter.  One factor is where the home is located. If inside a municipal district there may be no visible clutter from the exterior.  These hidden heavy content homes may not indicate clutter until entry. Secondly, the first room of entry my be free from clutter. In hoarding conditions not all rooms are completely packed full, there can be varying levels of stored items.  If the room of entry is open the firefighter may assume the rest of the building is the same way. 

Don’t waste time

Many firefighters ask how long they should wait before calling a mayday.  In hoarding situations the time to call should be reduced. Why, because the length of time to rescue will be increased.  If  firefighters were to find themselves in the middle of clutter without means of orientation this is a true emergency. The amount of time before declaration of the mayday should be short.  

Ideally the lost firefighter will have a search rope, TIC, and/or a hose line for orientation. If none of the potential life savers are present and you are disoriented call it……CALLL IT NOW!!  

Some firefighters feel if they call a mayday without being in true life or death danger they can be ridiculed by other members once the fire is  out.  So what! At least you will be alive to take it. If you feel the need to search out secondary means of egress and/or a point for orientation without positively knowing the direction you can find yourself going towards bigger danger, especially if you choose to crawl over stacks of debris. In heavy content conditions that best path is inside the pre-made pathway established by the occupants.  

If a firefighter does not feel the need from a mayday declaration they should begin with radio communication to inform everyone of the situation and request information that can help them become reoriented to their location or establish secondary means of egress. These communications should be short and to the point. The longer it takes to establish location the more air the firefighters will be using and less time to make an escape. Establishing air consumption rates and understanding how to function in a high stress situation can aid in the reestablishing orientation. If firefighters have even a small amount of doubt, CALL THE MAYDAY. 

Entanglement Solutions 

Inside cluttered conditions firefighters will find a variety of entanglement dangers. From large collection of Christmas Lights to wire from dryer vents ran for ferrets to travel room to room these challenges may be some that firefighters had never even thought of.  

The most important variable in the entanglement equations is identification of there presence. Not crawling into a room with a collection of wires is the BEST solution to this problem.  Making this seemingly simple statement more complex is the density and thickness of the smoke.  Limited visibility can make this near impossible.  Using the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) offers firefighters the tool to identify these situation.  While scanning with the TIC firefighters should look for piles of wires, tubular shaped dryer style vents, multiple electric cords, and other challenges that can entangle them. 


If a firefighter is to become entangled they must revert to solid training.  Using techniques such as the swim move, grab and cut, are both options while remembering to not pull the entanglement tighter.  Both of these techniques are commonly found in firefighter training manuals and require more time that allowed in this short blog.  If you are not familiar with these techniques click Here and Here to watch short videos on managing entanglements. 

Clearing Debris b2ap3_thumbnail_Delta-Alpha-Corner.jpg

Whether before or after any firefighter emergency that happens inside a Heavy Content Environment will require the removal of debris. From simply moving a stack to the labor intensive task of moving massive piles clearing debris in a hostile environment comes with challenges.  

First and foremost, is the workload on the firefighters. If the work is being completed inside a smoke field environment air consumption will be increase. Lower actual working times will require more firefighters to be available to perform the task of moving the debris.  Key to knowing this problem is the identification of heavy content early in an operation to allow time for other firefighters to be on scene.  

Second, is the potential for added weight to cause a localized collapse. When clearing debris to reduce or prevent a mayday firefighters need to understand that moving the weight of a stack to lay on top of another stack could be enough added weight to cause a collapse.  


Example: Pile A has x amount of weight, while Pile B has x amount of weight.  These piles have added weight slowly over many days and weeks allowing for the structure to adjust.  Imagine if in a short amount of time the weight from pile A is put on top of pile B.  In a matter of minutes you could have double the actual weight of pile B. The weight added could stress that area of the structure enough to cause a local or complete collapse. 

It is important to understand this risk when working around the massive amounts of stuff inside a heavy content environment. When tasked with moving stacks of debris, whether for a mayday or not, firefighters should ensure the distribution of the weight is not piled in one central area that could already be near the collapse level.  Spreading the weight over a larger area will help reduce the chances of collapse danger. 

Ryan’s Advice 

Fighting structural fires will always bring an amount of risk with it.  When operating inside homes filled with massive amounts of content the risk will be higher.  Firefighters need to understand the sheer volume of physical risk required to accomplish even the most simple tasks. 

Prevention is the best advice for mayday situations. By using good situational awareness and common sense firefighters should manage the potential  mayday causing situations.  Use the pathways for transportation routes, keep the stacks in place, pay close attention to air consumption, and always suspect that adding more weight to an already weighted down building runs the risk of collapse.  

Actionable Items

1.Review your mayday radio transmission 

2.Ensure the purchase and upkeep of wire cutters

3.Review TIÇ use in identifying wires, cables, and other entanglement hazards

4.Practice swim technique

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Hoarding Interview with Battalion Chief David Brosnahan

Hoarding Interview with Battalion Chief David Brosnahan

In this audio Chamber of Hoarders Ryan Pennington interviews Battalion Chief David Brosnahan. David has taken suggestions learned from Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters presentation and apply them to his departments operation.

In this audio recording Ryan and David talk in detail about the Roseville's hoarding reporting system. Since it's inception Roseville's reporting system has identified 25 structures that exhibit some level of hoarding. Using this system on non fire situations allows crews to identify these buildings and begin to identify occupancy, access routes, structural stability, and stretch locations.

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Police Officers Save Woman from Hoarder Fire

CHP-Patrol

By ABC7.com staff Friday, February 13, 2015 11:45PM ENCINO, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California Highway Patrol officers rescued an elderly woman living in pack rat conditions who was trapped by flames in her Encino home near the 101 Freeway on Friday. The officers happened to be driving by. "We heard screaming coming from the other side of the house," California Highway Patrol Officer Edward Diffner said. "She was lying on the floor, 4 or 5 feet from the house, and she was screaming for our help," CHP Officer Kevin Mendel said. Crews responded to the one-story home in the 15000 block of Magnolia Boulevard near Densmore Avenue at about 5:50 p.m. Two people, an elderly woman and a man, were treated by firefighters at the scene. The woman was transported to a nearby hospital and was treated for moderate burns and smoke inhalation. She was in fair condition. The fire was confined to the one-story home, but excessive storage made it difficult to put out the flames. Fifty-five firefighters spent more than two hours battling the blaze. No firefighters were injured. The home was heavily damaged. The cause of the fire has not been determined. Neighbors were grateful for the CHP officers who arrived on the scene. "They did a great job, fast, good, very good," witness Sam Volchauck said.

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Derbyshire Firefighters raise awareness of Hoarding

FIREFIGHTERS in Derbyshire have held a seminar to raise awareness of the extent and impact of hoarding.

Compulsive hoarding is a debilitating psychological condition that is only just being recognised and one that can lead to issues regarding the health, wellbeing and fire safety of everyone in a hoarding home. It can also present significant risks to the community, firefighters and other agencies.

 

Last month 58 delegates from a wide variety of agencies from across Derbyshire representing; housing, environmental health, Age UK, care coordinators, the police and prevention and inclusion officers from the fire service came together at a multi-agency hoarding seminar hosted by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service.

There are approximately 50 hoarders known to the fire service in Derbyshire. It is anticipated that by working together and pooling knowledge with other services that this number will rise significantly.

 

Speaking on behalf of service, area manager Steve McLernon said: "By sharing information and best practice we can work together to help and protect not only those that are affected by hoarding, but also those that may have to come into contact with a hoarder or their home."  

Read More Here

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Hoarding Fire New Jersey

dunellenfire

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 05:39PM

A firefighter was injured in a two-alarm fire Tuesday at a condo complex in Dunellen, New Jersey.
The blaze began at about 11 a.m. on Pulaski Street near the intersection of South Avenue.

One firefigher suffered smoke inhalation and was taken away by ambulance. He is in stable condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.

Firefighters had a tough time battling the fire because in the apartment where the fire started, it was a case of what some are describing as hoarding conditions.

It was so difficult getting into the apartment that firefighters had to fight it from the outside.

 

 

 

Read More Here
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Dolton Illinois Hoarder Fire Video

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Hoarder Fire from Dolton IL

Dolton,Illinois Still & Box House Fire 14641 Lincoln Avenue

Good morning from the ChamberofHoarders.com,
 
We would like to thank you for visiting our new, redesigned, site.  Look for new content added weekly!
 
Today's video comes from Dolton Illinois.  This video is a great example of the challenges faced by first arriving crews that encounter a Heavy Content Environment. Listen in as these firefighters make some key decisions of attacking this fire:
Challenges include:

    • Privacy Fences

    • Cluttered exterior

    • Blocked Entrances

    • Limited water supply (initially)

    • Heavier workload on firefighters


While watching this great video put yourself in the shoes of these firefighters as they Identify, Adjust, then attack this fire.

 



Make sure to sign up for our email list to learn more about fighting fires in Hoarding conditions!
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Chamber of Hoarders Learning Center: Behind the Scenes



 

Here is a behind the scenes look at the ChamberofHoarders.com Learning Center.  Four hours of education of Hoarding and how we need to Identify, Adjust, and attack the overloaded buldings caused by Compulsive Hoarding Disorder.

 
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Hoarding and First Responders

Since the days of the Collier Brothers in Manhattan first responders have been

   


dealing with the affects of compulsive hoarding disorder.  The ChamberofHoarders.com is a website dedicated to teaching educating first responders on the needed changes to tactics and challenges they will face when entering the hoarding environment.  From bio-hazards during a medical response to a working structural fire hoarding offers dangers that can affect responders for years.

The mission of this website is to deliver actionable content that you can put to action immediately.  Starting with this post we would like to walk you through the causes, challenges, and solutions when dealing with the conditions caused by compulsive hoarding.  Over the next 52 weeks we will be posting fresh content that offers insight into the disorder and how to change  our operations to bring everyone home safe.

History of Compulsive Hoarding: Week 1

Compulsive Hoarding Disorder is defined as  the accumulation of and failure to discard a large amount of belongings that have no apparent value, the accumulation makes living spaces unusable, and causes significant distress on the occupant (Frost and Hartl 1996) This clinical definition describes the inability to discard belongings that eventually accumulate from floor level until, eventually, ceiling height.  Compulsive Hoarders receive positive feelings from the acquiring belongings and are unable to part with them because of the negative feelings they receive when parting with them.
This collection often is comprised of things that you and I would consider to have little value. Common items collected include:

    •  Newspapers

 

    • Magazines

 

    • Books

 

    • DVD’S

 

    • CD’S



These items can differ in each case of hoarding, depending on the afflicted’s compulsion.

It’s believed that Compulsive Hoarding Disorder affects between 700,000 - 1 million people.  (Hoarding Handbook… Bratiotis,C, Steketee (2011) Many think that this number is lower than the actual number.  Many cases of hoarding go unreported as the affected person often feels ashamed or embarrassed by their disorder. They don’t want “discovered” or “exposed” and often stay hidden inside their homes without allowing anyone to enter, including family members. Not allowing visitors inside will often keep the conditions hidden until an emergency happens and we, the first responders, find the conditions as we make entry to solve the problem.

Dealing with surprise can be one of the biggest challenges to first responders. Imagine responding to a seemingly normal looking home, just to open the door and find a labyrinth of belongings that reach to the ceiling.  Most often the hoarding is discovered during a routine emergency medical call or fall assist. If you discover these conditions during one of these types of responses you need to start the pre-fire process in motion to establish a “Heavy Content” environment. Getting the information should be processed through your departments normal pre -fire planning process for constancy. Adding the plan to the normal collection of multi-family and high hazards buildings will make the plan available to the street level responders.

 

Having an understanding of the complexities associated with Compulsive Hoarding Disorder is required by the responders left to deal with the mess.  It is a complex disorder that is NOT A CHOICE.  We can not cast judgement or compare their living conditions with ours.  Remember in their eyes belongings are valuable and not just trash laying around.  Using a layer of compassion and understanding when dealing with the occupants will lead to a more successful outcome.  This care should be taken in non life threatening conditions to understand, explain, and support them.  Treating them like a beloved family member is a great method of supporting their emotional needs.

If you are mean spirited and use terms such as “trash house” or “hoarder” they can have severe reactions to yourself and crew, sometimes violent reactions. One example of this type of reaction occurred in Long Beach California as a code enforcement official showed up to a home to serve notice.  The occupant shot the code enforcement officer in the head.

“Code enforcement officers arrived at the home about 8 a.m. Thursday to serve an inspection warrant in response to hoarding complaints. When they arrived he fired at them, police said, hitting one of the code officers in the head.” source  La Times 

This illustration should help us all understand how strong the compulsion to protect their belongings is. How threatened do you think a person would have to be in order to shoot a code enforcement officer? We all should keep this illustration in mind as we respond to hoarding conditions to ensure we all come home safe.

 

Thanks for stopping by chamberofhoarders.com as we begin the year long journey of discovery…..

 

As always you can learn more about Hoarding in our online Learning Center… Click Here! 

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News Coverage of Numerous Hoarder Fires


Are the number of Hoarder Fires rising? As we research this question the evidence seems to point towards: Yes they are. Until we establish a definite way of recording data on the number of Hoarding Fires that are occuring, we rely on news stories from around the world to update us on the number of hoarder fires. They usually grab news attention due to the amount of firefighters required and the length of time it takes to manage these situations.

This post is to share some of the latest news stories from around the world about Hoarder Fires:

    1. Elderly couple die in each others arms from Hoarder Fire. UK

 

    1. Officials say Hoarding Fueled Glendale Arizona Mobile Home Fire

 

    1. Portland Firefighters had to deal with large amounts of Clutter.

 

    1. Faulty Lamp cause Fatal Hoarder Fire in St. Saviour, Jersey

 

    1. Conditions made the fire hard to fight in Fatal Mass Fire

 

    1. Body of Mich Hoarder found inside Mobile Home

 

    1. College Park Hoarder Fire turns Fatal



These are some of the most recent news stories from around the world on Hoarder Fires.  A new feature here on the Chamber of Hoarders  will be a monthly update on the news stories reporting emergencies inside the hoarding envriornments.

 

Stay safe and always remember..... Hoarder Fires: Identify, Adjust, and ATTACK!!!

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Hoarding Firefighting: Lesson from a Live Fire Experience

When firefighters enter a burning building many different factors come into play.  One huge factor that can affect the outcome of the operation is the presence of increased amounts of belongings, caused by a person afflicted with compulsive hoarding disorder.  As their collection of stuff accumulates the danger in hoarding firefighting increases.

[caption id="attachment_882" align="alignright" width="180"]Firefighter Enter Hoarding Firefighter Enter Hoarding


Over the past two years of reaching out to fire departments from around the world some common challenges kept coming up.  Inability to hit the seat of the fire, shielding from the heat , and difficulties in escape were top of the list.  This past weekend the chamber of hoarders had a unique opportunity to enter a “live fire” environment to experience these variables.

With the assistance of the Frontier Fire Company in Wheatfield New York a hoarding environment was set up and multiple scenarios were run.  The results were a confirmation of all the research collected. Each variable was looked at individually and together with great success.  It truly served as a reminder that hoarding changes our operations and if we are unwilling to adjust our operation it may not be successful.

Shielding from the Heat

With many safety measures in place the fire rotations started with a firefighter between the stacks of belongings with a thermal imager.  What we learned was a confirmation and an amazing result. While the other instructors took a beating from the heat in front of and behind the stacks of stuff the inside firefighters documented floor temperatures of 125 degrees with thermal imagining, shielded from the heat.

Documenting these temperatures was an unofficial, non- scientific example of the true dangers of the hoarding environment.  No monitors, measuring equipment, or recording devices were in place, just a group of firefighters with thermal imaging cameras watching something amazing.  The hoard shielded the firefighter from the heat.  It restricted the heat and pushed it past and around.  These results proved a multiple amount of points.

  • Hoarding can give interior firefighters a false sense of environment

  • Shielding can allow firefighters to push further inside without experiencing the normal heat levels

  • Stacks of stuff can trap firefighters

  • Victims can have more survivable thermal temperatures when insulated with hoarding.


With the recent research on flow paths coming to light the need to adjust them for hoarding  firefighting was revealed inside the burn room in New York this past weekend. It reconfirmed the dangers of the insulation provided by the interior conditions.  This insulation can hide the hidden heat and dangers until it’s too late.  Most firefighters advance into burning buildings using their senses to determine how far and deep they are to go.  In hoarding conditions they may keep pushing unaware of the hidden dangers waiting for them. Dangers that could present themselves in the form of rollover, flashover, or backdraft, trapping the firefighters because they don’t have secondary means of egress.

[caption id="attachment_883" align="alignright" width="120"]Hoarding Firefighting Hoarding Firefighting


 Conclusion

Confirmation that the shielding is real was not a surprising result.  This weekend just reconfirmed what we have been learning from survival stories from around the world.  Hoarding conditions can act as an insulator keeping high temperatures away from the victim or firefighter in the middle.  We need to educate firefighters to be aware that this shielding can lead to poor judgment to just how far we should push.

Identify, adjust, and attack when Hoarding is discovered!!!!!!!

 FDIC Flow Path Video. 

 
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Hoarding Fire Safety for Family Members

Since attacking the problem of emergency responses in Hoarding Conditions, from the perspective of first responders, the questions from the family members of people who are suffering from Compulsive Hoarding Disorder keep coming in.  How can I help my family member? How do I make their home safer are a small examples of the questions that are commonly asked.

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Hoarding Fire Safety Should include a Escape Plan


Answering these questions is complex and has no one simple answer, but there are some steps to help protect your loved one from the dangers of fires in hoarding conditions.  While these simple steps may not eliminate the risks to them it can improve the chances of survival if a fire were to happen. Since starting the research into hoarding fire safety many common causes have been identified.  Sharing these common causes will help family members protect their loved ones until they can be treated by the mental health professionals.

 

Cooking Fires

Cooking fires are commonly seen in the fire service today. Hoarding conditions complicate these types of fires because the clutter has accumulated to the edge of the heating source.  When the belongings are allowed to invade the space adjacent to the stove the potential for cooking fires goes up.  If you add ordinary combustibles to a heat source the resulting fire can spread fast and trap the occupant who is in the kitchen.

0"] Hoarding Fire Safety In the Kitchen.


Fire proofing your family member’s kitchen may be a huge undertaking, especially if the hoarding level is at or above waist level.  Compulsive hoarding disorder prohibits the occupant from distinguishing between things that have great or little value. If you were to try and move their “treasured” valuables you will be met with passionate resistance. Being understanding and compassionate in your response will keep the family member at ease as you try to explain the risk for fire.

Approaching them with some tradeoffs will allow them to move their belongings away from the heating source, thus reducing the risk for a cooking fire.  Example: “Can we take the belongings from the counter and move them over to the table, away from the stove.”  If the family members understand how the thought process works they will focus on a positive solution to this problem.

This approach may be met with resistance and take time to explain the risks of cooking fire inside their environment.  Persistence with this process will be needed and the kitchen may need to be revisited multiple times as the family member replaces the belongings that have been moved.

Electrical Fires

Another leading cause of fires inside hoarding conditions are electrical fires.  Having stacks of belongings closely placed near electrical outlets increase the risks of fire from a sparking electrical outlet.  Much like the cooking fires the ordinary combustibles, newspapers and like materials, can make a fire more likely and increase the burn rate trapping occupants.

Moving the stacks of belongings away from the outlets is a simple solution to this problem.  Approaching the family member with the example of electrical outlet malfunction and explain that you are not asking to throw anything away, just move it away from the outlet will ease the pain felt when approached with the thought of losing their “treasures”.   Explaining the process of “moving” not “removing” the items can reduce their anxiety.

"] Hoarding Fire Safey


A blaring similarity, in electrical fires, seen in the hoarding environment, is caused by extension cords.  They are commonly stacked one on top of the other as electric outlets become unusable.  If an electric outlet becomes non-functioning the occupant often just runs an extension cord from a functioning one increasing the chance of overloading one outlet.  When you enter the family members home you should take time to investigate the status (usable or not) of all the outlets in the home.  This access can be difficult as the access to them can be blocked with the hoard.  Use the pathways established by the occupant to access the points available first before trying to go through the stacks.

Escape Plan


Much like the education given to elementary students in fire prevention month family members afflicted with compulsive hoarding disorder should be exposed to the exit their home plan.  Fires today are known to double every thirty seconds, offering less time for occupants to escape.  Taking the time to explain this danger to your family members will help offer some simple solutions, while starting the treatment plan.

Taking the time to explain this danger and evaluate the presence of multiple exits paths is paramount for their safety.  Example: “If a fire were to happen in the current condition blocking this only exit, you will burn to death” While this sounds somewhat extreme it may be necessary to bring home the dangers presented by not having multiple exit points in their home.

Ask your family member “What is your plan in the event of a fire and this pathway is blocked?”

 

Smoke detectors


By far the most important part of the visit should be the instillation of smoke detectors in EVERY room.  When hoarding conditions are present available airflow for smoke can be restricted.  This restriction can delay the time needed for a standard smoke detector to be alerted.  Delayed alerting can lead to less time for escape of an occupant.  Expecting this delay should lead family members to install more smoke detectors, one in each room.  Mounting them on the ceiling in the center of the room is a best option, if the stacks of stuff allow.  If not the closest proximity to the center ceiling will allow for the most coverage.

Hoarding Fire Safety Conclusion 


Dealing with loved ones that are dealing with compulsive hoarding disorder can be an emotion filled challenge that takes years.  Keeping a positive, reassuring approach that always keeps in mind the complexity of Compulsive Hoarding Disorder can lead to a successful safety intervention.  While this is not a cure it is an intervention that could save your loved ones life.  Make sure to reach out to your local fire departments, hoarding tasks forces, mental health professionals, and health officials for resources to help in your journey.

 

Additional Links:

http://www.hoarders.org/f-c.html

http://childrenofhoarders.com/wordpress/

http://hoardingdisorderinstitute.com/

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Often Ignored Hoarding Dangers

How much risk are you willing to take?  While attending the 2013 Ohio Fire and EMS expo in Columbus Ohio last week it seemed clear that first responders don’t fully understand Hoarding Dangers and how they can affect safety.  Having the opportunity to travel and meet the brave men and women who serve as first responders is a HUGE honor.  In this past week’s travel is where this lack of understanding became crystal clear in these conversations.It’s like clockwork that when someone hears that I am studying responses in Hoarding Conditions they immediately start into a story of a response.  These stories always involve the words “lucky” and/or “fortunately” something happened or it could have been bad.  As an educator these words are like fingernails on a chalkboard.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="265"] Hoarding Dangers: Glassware Image from http://hoardingwoes.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/hoarding-the-glassware/


I would like to share two conversations that came from Ohio.  Sharing these conversations is not a judgmental or an effort to “bash” anyone, but rather an attempt for everyone to learn from their experience.

Hoarding Danger in Piles:

The most troubling story was, by far, the firefighter who described a fire where they had to crawl over piles and piles of belongings to fight the fire.  They described hoarding at a level 3 and went on to explain that the interior firefighters had to crawl over multiple stacks of belongings to access the fire, which sounded rather small.

The conversation described the difficulties of traversing the stacks and how “lucky” they were to make the fire room and have a successful firefight.  With the hair standing up on the back of my neck I began to question them and after some time the “I never thought of that’s came”.  Often we all don’t think of a certain danger until someone exposes us to it.  Their response is common when dealing with hoarding conditions.  Without being judgmental we should all be exposed to the danger possessed by the stacks of stuff.

Let’s review some of the factors and why firefighters should not crawl over stacks of stuff and exactly how dangerous it is.

  • Stability of the Piles

  • What are the Stacks Comprised of (magazines, books, Glassware)

  • Collapse Risk

  • Entrapment dangers (wires, yarn, extension cords)

  • Weight of the firefighter

  • Need for rapid escape

  • Height of Stacks (putting firefighter closer to the ceiling and hotter temps)


Each of the above danger can place a firefighter in a life or death situation at a moment’s notice.  Mix one with another and a recipe for disaster is on the horizon.

Example: Firefighters making an interior push choose to crawl over a stack of glassware. The weight of each firefighter plus gear added to the instability of the stacks causes a collapse of the stack downward then adding a side collapse covering the firefighters with sharp glass.

You can see the dangers in the above example.  Not knowing what is in the piles of belongings should be the number one reason why we should NOT crawl over stacks of belongings.  Adding the weight of a firefighter to an unstable situation can lead to a mayday.   Do the occupants crawl over the stacks or walk around them?

Occupants use the pathways to access the usable space inside the house and so should we.  Using the “goat paths” for interior access is the safest way to gain interior access without collapsing piles of belongings on beneath the firefighters.  Think about walking to the stage of a theater, would you crawl over the rows of seats or use the isle to access the stage.

It was a Clean Hoarder House:

Another hoarding story from this trip was a assistance call where they described a Clean Hoarder Environment.  This mindset is troubling because of the hidden dangers that may not be seen because of the accumulation of belongings.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"] How clean can it be. Hoarding Dangers


While the environment may look “clean” from the view point of a responder, do we truly know what lies beneath the hoard.  Without access to walls, rooms, and the inability to see the floor do we truly know what’s underneath the stacks of stuff.  The answer is NO.

 

Stacks of belongings in the home can hide dangers for first responders.  Rodents, insects, mold, and animal excrement’s can all be dangerous to responders and all can be hiding beneath stacks of stuff that appear to be clean.  Without the ability to clean and maintain a home, due to the hoarding, the occupant may never truly have the ability to clean, sanitize, or remove problem areas.  This accumulation can be dangerous for them and us.

If you find a hoarding condition that must be entered we MUST assume the worse situation possible and choose to wear our PPE properly.  Assuming that the hoarding area is “clean” is an assumption that can lead to Bio Hazard exposure.  Once discovered we should take the appropriate precautions and choose to wear ALL of our PPE to make sure we don’t care these dangers home to our families.

 

Review:

Emergencies in hoarding conditions should be identified, adjusted for, and then attacked with different approaches by all first responders.  Crawling over debris and not choosing to wear proper PPE are just two dangers that could cause injury or death.  Make the choice to avoid them both when, not if, you are called to enter the hording environment.

 

 
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Hoarder Fire Case Study

Hoarding Firefighting Case Study




Here is a case study of a Cluttered House fire from Wayland Massachusetts.  This is a small glimpse of the complete study that will be added to the Chaberofhoarders.com learning center.

In this Hoarder Fire case many points are reviewed as the firefighters battled a "cluttered" condition.  We would like to thank Kyle Marcinkiewicz  for submitting these great photos and description.  You will find more about this fire inside the Learning Center.

 

 

Make sure to visit Kyle's Website to see more Pictures

kjmphotography.zenfolio.com 
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Cluttered House Fire

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="281"] Cluttered Fire Picture credit KHOU.com


HARRIS COUNTY, Texas –- Firefighters said clutter inside a westside home hindered their efforts to put out an overnight blaze.

The fire was reported on Paso Dobble Drive at Paso Del Sol Drive around 12:30 a.m. Friday, according to officials with the Community Volunteer Fire Department in Mission Bend.

A couple inside the home made it out safely and drove to a nearby fire station to ask for help.

Firefighters found fire inside the home’s kitchen and made a fast attack to get it under control. They said parts of the dining and living rooms were also damaged, however. Officials said they had trouble fighting the fire because clutter in the home was blocking the front door.

The Harris County Fire Marshal is investigating what started the blaze

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Hoarder Firefighting: In a mess, use your PASS

[caption id="attachment_40" align="alignright" width="180"]Hoarder Fire Hoarder fire. Picture Courtesy of sdfirephotos.com


Are you prepared to call a mayday, right now?  One of the most often asked question from my students is how do you know when you should call a mayday.  The answer always comes back to, anytime you can’t get yourself out or find yourself in need of assistance, PERIOD!  There are many situations that require a firefighter calling the mayday and one that holds true is a firefighter who finds themselves inside the trenches of a Hoarder Home.  Without knowing, an interior structural firefighter can find themselves with stacks of belongings that can extend up to ceiling level causing a huge problem in advancing hoses, searching for victims, and any other fire ground tasks.

How far do you push into these conditions?  At what point do you call a mayday?

These are two questions that should be considered by the individual firefighter while using some common variables.

  • How high are the stacks of Stuff

  • Are we experiencing small collapse of belongings


How high:


Determining the level of belongings can alter an interior attack.  Making this determination can be the challenge due to smoke conditions. Using the stream of your hose or an extended hand tool can give you an estimate of how high the stacks are.  If you carry a 24-36 in haligan you could use it to sweep above your head to determine the height.  If you choose this technique you will need to be mindful of the location of the other firefighters with you.

Either choice of techniques should be used with caution as the resulting collapse could cover up unannounced victims, secondary means of egress, or uncover hidden pockets of fire.  Most often the only part of the hoarder stacks that are burning are the top layer.  By knocking over the stacks you could expose more fuel, maybe even more flammable fuels such as newspapers that were once insulated from the heat source.

Collapsing Stuff:


Whether it’s caused by your sweeping tool or just by itself falling debris should be considered when inside the hoarder environments.  Often the pathways, or “goat paths” , that traverse the interior of the hoarding can be narrowed to a level that causes the advancing firefighter to knock stuff over, just by traveling through them.

 Hoarding Mess:


These two variables should be considered if you find yourself inside the hoarder environment.  Both can cause an added level of danger to an interior firefighter. Often, hoarding conditions can NOT be identified from the exterior of a building.  This can expose an interior firefighter to the dangers once they have passed the point of no return (5 feet inside a structure).

If you find yourself in this condition take these two variables into consideration when determining how far you want to push inside.

If you are experiencing ceiling level stuff or collapsing debris it might not be a fight that you want to take on. Even worse, if these conditions cause you to become disoriented, entangled or low on air make sure that you are ready to call the mayday and activate your pass alarm.  It is better to call and cancel the mayday, than to find yourself in a collapsed stack of stuff and running out of air.

If you’re in a mess, use your pass and make sure that hoarding doesn’t trap you inside without a way to escape a rapidly progressing fire condition!

If you would like to learn more about hoarder firefighting make sure to check out the Learning Center here on ChambeofHoarders.com.   4 + hours of content on Hoarder Firefighting 
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Hoarder Fires Size Up

Hoarder Fires


Welcome to the first video from the ChamberofHoarders.com.  This short video is a look into the new exciting online learning that will be released soon!  The Chamber of Hoarders Online Learning Center will be a 24/7 access to hoarding education for first responders.

Keep up to date on the new online learning center by signing up for our email blasts.
Click here to sign up.   We hope you enjoy our first video.

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24 Hours and 2 Hoarder Fires

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="223"]Pic from silive.com New York City Hoarder Fire


Hoarding fire Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND , N.Y. -- City firefighters rescued 30 small dogs from a blaze that ignited in a two-story home -- apparently owned by a "hoarder" -- in the Clifton section of the borough.

The call about a fire at 3 Bowen Street came in at 9:29 p.m. It was under control by 9:59 p.m., said an FDNY spokeswoman.

"It looks like there was a Colliers' mansion condition in the house; that's what we call a hoarder's house," said an FDNY spokeswoman.

Read More

http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/08/fdny_rescues_30_dogs_during_a.html

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="270"]Photo from local12.com Hoarder Fire


Firefighters are battling fire at the home of a hoarder in Evendale. The fire broke out Friday around 1:30 pm at 3520 Glendale Milford Road. Crews from Evendale, Glendale and Springdale have been called to help fight the fire. Firefighters were forced to take up a defensive position when they could not get through the front door because of the hoarding. There are no reports of injuries.

Read More at: http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/fire-at-hoarders-home-evendale-1471.shtml

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Hoarder Home: If you see something, say something!

Welcome back into the chamber of hoarders.  After some time away we are back and well into summer preparing emergency responders to face the challenges of compulsive hoarding disorder environments.  This week we are going to look back at a training topic that we have visited before, with a new twist.  It is vitally important to allow firefighters to communicate their findings on each response; this is even truer when faced with massive amounts of clutter found inside hoarder homes.  From pulling on scene to making a interior attack, each and every firefighter should be taught what to say, who to say it too, and how to say it when a hoarding environment is suspected.  Example, “ interior to command we are experiencing Heavy Content”, “command received.”  Often this is where this line of communication ends, not allowing incoming units or firefighters that didn’t receive this message aware of the potential for danger.  It’s time for us to change how we process, receive, and announce situations.

 

[caption id="attachment_388" align="alignright" width="275"]Courtesy of Oxford Pa Fire Department Courtesy of Oxford Pa Fire Department


Firefighter Level

Being the eyes and ears of the responders is a role that each firefighter should be given.  Constantly scanning, evaluating, and searching for potential dangers should be trained on until they become automatic. During this training is where we should introduce them to cues and clues that a hoarding situation is present.



Here are a few:

  • Blocked doors and Windows

  • Cluttered yards or Porches

  • Cars Full of Belongings


If you encounter any of these situations a message should be transmitted to command.  Announcing the presence of hoarding conditions will put everyone in a more defensive mindset and allow the commander to call for additional resources.  Extra manpower, more apparatus, and needed rehab sector are all areas that need reinforced when dealing with hoarder conditions.  If the IC doesn’t know they need them, why would they call for them?  Make the call, even if you are wrong.  If they are not needed they can be released and returned to service.

 

 

 

Incident Commanders

Being in command of a fire when the announcement of heavy contents is made requires some direct actions.  First action is to communicate the findings to the dispatch center to share the message with everyone responding and on scene. Second action is to call for more help.  With hoarding conditions firefighters air consumption will be greater, thus lowering their work time and will need a longer rehab period because of the stresses placed on them while working in these overloaded spaces.  Knowing this a commander should request additional units to respond to the scene. Third action should be a second rapid intervention team.  If a firefighter is inside and experiences a Mayday, it will require a larger number of firefighters to access and remove them.

A good rule of thumb for any commander is the rule of doubles.  If you discover hoarding double the number of firefighters, RIT team members, and double the rehab time allowing your firefighters to adequately recover from the larger workload. The worst thing that you could do is place your firefighters into a stressful environment and not allow them time to recover before going back.

Conclusion

If you see something, say something!

If you hear something, Dispatch Something!

 

If you allow your firefighters to make the announcement of a potential hoarding situation it will allow all commanders to use the rule of doubles and call for the help needed.  Hoarding can place us all at a greater risk do to the compression of belongings that has taken years to accumulate.  Make the adjustments if you are faced with these conditions and make sure we all go home!
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Hoarder Fire Training



On Saturday May 11,2013 Jumpseat Training brought a new level of training to the West Virginia Public Safety Expo in Charleston WV.  Expanding their wildly popular classroom session, Hoarder Home's Piles of Hazards for Firefighters, to include a hands on session.  Evolution's within simulated Hoarding conditions added a new level of learning and perspective to the class. This was the first time for "hands on" evolution on Hoarder Fire Training.

Allowing students to experience the challenges faced with hoarding conditions took the learning to the next level.  When firefighters are faced with hoarding conditions they must change how they operate to remain oriented to their location and adjust how the search inside these conditions.

Many great learning points were discovered by students and instructors. Jumpseat Training would like to send out a HUGE thank you to the foll0wing supporters for making this session a overwhelming success:

WV Public Safety Expo

Resa III

Drager Thermal Imaging

BullEx Smoke Generator 

Darin Virag, Training Captain Charleston WV Fire Department

FoxFury Lighting Solutions 

FDcam.com

Look for more hands on training from Jumpseat Training Soon!

 

 
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Hoarder Fire Rekindles 3-Times

One complication that firefighters face inside a home that has hoarding conditions is the need for extensive overhaul.  Stacks of compressed belongings can lead to an extended overhaul and often will reveal hidden pockets of fire.  This news video shows an example of the complications of overhauling a hoarder fire as they were called back three times for rekindles.  There are only a few options when dealing with hoarder fires and overhaul.  Keep an eye out soon for more from ChamberofHoarders.com

 

News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

 

Here is a Link to a previous article on Overhauling Hoarder Fires 
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