[caption id="attachment_40" align="alignright" width="300"] Hoarder fire. Picture Courtesy of sdfirephotos.com
When we last were inside the chamber we discussed the choice to crawl over the piles of belongings that you can encounter while inside a hoarded home. This is a complex issue with multiple variables. We first looked at the victim profile, now it’s time to add another variable to this discussion. Collapse risk needs looked at every time you enter a hoarded environment. Let’s head back into the chamber to look at the next variable to Knock it over or crawl over the stacks!
When dealing with assessing a hoarded environment many professionals choose the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) 1-5 scale to rate conditions. This scale applies to the emergency services community in dealing with the amount of belongings that you meet. In this scale a one will be a slightly cluttered home and a five representing a uninhabitable home. When faced with the decision to knock over a pile or crawl over the NSGCD scale will be a useful tool. If you discover a level 2 hoarded condition you will be able to crawl over the piles paying close attention to if there is burning materials. This can be a dangerous task if the pile you are crawling over has been on fire.There have been cases of firefighters pant leg being pulled above their boot and causing burn injuries to the lower leg. Often we learn to use our hose stream to clear the path of debris in front of us as we crawl into a fire and this would be a great method to help reduce these types of injuries.
If you decide the hoard is at a Level 4 or above you will need to consider pulling the piles over before advancing beyond them. At these levels the piles are at shoulder level or higher and the decision of pulling them over needs made. Piles of belongings at this level will make for the most dangerous hoarder fire. This task will need more personnel and longer time frames to carry out the task requiring more time to advance on the fire. Longer time to maneuver through the pathways while pulling them over can test even the fittest firefighters. When faced with a level 4 or above the best decision might be NOT GO IN!
Making the decision to enter a hoarded environment is complex and making this decision even harder is the choice to pull over piles of debris. Incident commanders need to consider the risk of the belongings falling and then trapping firefighters. This consideration will help you make the call to not go in at all……