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

Read more Here 
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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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Overhead View of Hoarder Homes

Without a doubt, the number one question asked is “How can I tell if the home is a Hoarder Home”.  The answer: You will need to look for the Cues and Clues of Clutter. If you are driving your district, running medical emergencies, or driving home from work you should be on the lookout for the hoarded homes in your district.  Knowing the conditions BEFORE a fire happens will make you better prepared when you arrive.  How do you find a hoarder home?  Let’s look and a new approach to identifying a clutter home in your district.

Street Level View

As we drive the streets in our districts we should be on the lookout for unique challenges.  These include a hoarder home and the potential for a response.  When driving past these homes you should be looking out for some typical cues:

  • Hoarded front yards

  • Large privacy fence covering back yard

  • Cluttered front porches

  • Blocked windows

  • Overgrown shrubs, bushes or trees

  • Multiple vehicles in yard that are full


These cues and clues should trigger a need for further investigation.  If you suspect one or more of the above you should begin to investigate a little deeper, but how?

[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Aerial view of a Cluttered House Aerial view of a Cluttered House


Overhead View

Without an invitation or a need we cannot enter your property but the eye in the sky always knows.  Taking to your computer and using tools such as Google earth can let you get a bird’s eye view of the property to confirm your suspicions.  Find a point of interest, address, or something to give you a reference point and view the property from overhead.  This perspective will allow you to view the backyard, side yard, and potentially the windows without physically walking the property.

 Read More about Pre-Fire Planning Here:

http://chamberofhoarders.com/3-things-your-department-should-do-about-hoarding/

 

Read more about Non-Fire Dangers in Hoarder Homes Here:

http://chamberofhoarders.com/hoarder-homes-more-dangers-than-fire/
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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 Homes: If the Clutter don’t Kill You…..

After spending the last two days reviewing pages and pages of tragic events, which lead to a Line of Duty Death, searching for the effects of clutter, hoarding, or large amounts of debris. A huge point of learning kept coming up.  It wasn't the clutter that killed the firefighter; it was the clutter that kept the firefighter from being able to escape the primary killer….a rapid fire event or collapse.

[caption id="attachment_505" align="alignright" width="135"]Hoarding Photo Courtesy of the Dix Hills Fire Dept,


This point of learning kept me up all night long trying to figure out how to share this information with all firefighters in a sensitive, yet stern way. The last thing that any of us should do is disrespect a fellow firefighter when learning how they died, but we all should honor them by learning the how’s and why’s.

How’s and why’s constantly included these factors.

  1. Extended burn times

  2. Hidden pockets of fire.

  3. Elevated collapse risks

  4. Blocked secondary means of egress


While some had one, most had two or three of the above factors that contributed to the death of a firefighter.  We can make adjustments for these factors, most of us do. But we need to make sure that we are adjusting for them ALL.  One can be dangerous, but combine multiple factors together, and it is a firefighter killer.

We need to take some steps to make sure we don’t underestimate our enemy, the fire.  Using some common assessments during the firefight can give you a buffer of safety and keep you thinking about the potential for death.

1)      Double burn time estimates

2)      Use outside crews to coordinate secondary means of egress

3)      Scan the building for exits while approaching

4)      Constant updates to command as your hose advance progresses

5)      Be aware of Hidden Fire

Keeping these tips and keeping your head will allow you to expect the unexpected, when dealing with the large amounts of clutter.  Adjusting how we operate in a hoarding situation will allow us to search, attack, and overhaul the home safely.

HOARDER HOMES ARE NOT BREAD AND BUTTER FIRES……...

Make sure you Identify, adjust, and attack to make sure we all come home safe!!!!!!
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London Hoarder House Collapse

A London hoarder had a lucky escape when her ceiling collapsed under the weight of 20 tonnes of rubbish.Wendy Towers, 61, of Forest Gate, east London, was feared dead and buried beneath the rubble by neighbours when they contacted police on Tuesday after seeing that her living room ceiling had caved in.


 

Luckily for Ms Towers she was staying with
a friend when the ceiling gave way and returned to her home of 30 years last night unaware of what had happened.The waste disposal company involved in clearing the house claimed there was "at least 20 tonnes of stuff in there.”

Read the Full ArticleHere:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hoarder-was-feared-dead-after-living-room-ceiling-collapsed-under-20-tonnes-of-rubbish-8752661.html

 6"]

Photo Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/


Chamber of Hoarders Learning Point:

    • Collapse risk should always be considered when entering the Hoarded environment

 

    • Even a Ceiling collapse could injure or kill a First Responder

 

    • Evaluating for structural stability should be a fluid part of the response

 

    • Estimating the level of Hoarding Conditions 1-5 and the weight should be included in size up.

 

    • Shoring should be available if suspected collapse is immanent



 

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Keep the stuff off us: Stabilizing the Piles of a Hoarder Homes

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"] Hoarder Fire NSW Fire Department


One question that keeps coming up, time and time again, when dealing with hoarder homes, is how do we keep the piles of belongings stable and prevent them from falling on us or the occupant.  This is a challenging question with a multiple different answers, dependent on the situation.  From fighting a fire to removing a patient on an ems run this challenge can be met head on to keep the stuff off of us. Let’s look at a few simple ways to keep the massive amount of belonging in their place while we perform our tasks.



Firefighting:

The most challenging part of fighting a fire in hoarder conditions is keeping the belongings in the same place.  From a VEIS search to advancing a hoseline dealing with the stacks will be difficult.  One way of stabilizing these piles is to avoid them at all costs.  The clinical term used is “Goat Paths” and this is how the occupant accesses their home.  By using these pathways will allow you to minimize the movement of the belongings, if the pathways are wide enough to allow.  Enviably you will know some things over, but if you make an effort to keep the hose low on the stacks and crawl toward the bottom of the pile you can help prevent a collapse.

While staying low will not be an end all, cure all it will use the base to keep them in place. Another benefit in staying low is to avoid the heat that you will be exposed to if you choose to go over the piles of belongings.  Every 12 or so inches equals 100 degrees and with some hoarding conditions that means a 200 degree spike.

If you can’t stay low you may be creative in your thought process.  Bringing an attic ladder, or two, or a salvage cover can offer you a tool to help keep the stuff in place.  If you choose an attic ladder, try to place it at waist level, when standing, to stabilize the middle of the pile.  This will be a labor intensive task and you will need to pay close attention to your air supply.  Often times there will not be enough space to lay it flat, so you will need to angle it upward to the ceiling level to capture as much surface area as possible.  Choosing a salvage cover will also be challenging.  Pre-rigging it for a quick and sometimes not complete deployment will be needed.   If fire conditions allow you can carry it inside and deploy it over the pile.  The cover will need to have some weight to it, not the lighter weight blue style.  During this process you may need to knock over some of the pile to help stabilize it.  When choosing this method a thermal imagining camera and due diligence is needed to make sure you are NOT exposing the firefighters or cover to high heat conditions.

Accessing the exterior:

One pressing problem with hoarding is accessing the exterior of the home.  From collections in the back yard to side yard full of belongings gaining access can be a hazardous.  Using some of the above mentioned tactics can be used, but also using ground ladders to stabilize the outside belongings may also be used. Laying it on top, to the side, or a combination of both can be used to make pathways of access.  Removing of privacy fencing of other barriers may be necessary to make this achievable due to the fact that they often use them to “Hide” their hoard.

You may also choose to use a salvage cover in combination with grounds ladders to make a stable environment as well.  Much like a ladder chute, to collect water, you can use two ladders and a salvage cover to make pile of belongings more stable to walk around, or worst case, climb over.   Climbing over these massive amounts of material can be challenging even with chutes and ladders to help offer stability.

 

Conclusion

From stabilizing the piles to maneuvering around them entering a hoarded environment offers man challenges.  Taking the time to stabilize the pile will allow you a greater level of safety as your exit routes will stay clearer.  One thing needs to be remembered when crawling in, your way out may become blocked, no matter how hard you try.  Using the paths to fight a fire or access a patient is a “best practice” when dealing with hoarding.  Getting creative and using some technical rescue skills will also allow you to enter and exit safely.  Remember that unless you practice these you WILL NOT be proficient at them.  Add some of these recommendations to your next drill and see if you can stabilize the stacks……..
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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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Hoarding in the News....Worldwide

Some amazing stories from Fire Departments around the World have been released in the last week.  Here are some links to some challenging repsonses inside hoarding conditions.



 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-22629605

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2328960/Coroner-criticises-TV-shows-making-light-hoarding-pensioner-trapped-piles-rubbish-dies-blaze.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323959/Mummified-body-Chicana-author-New-Mexico-home-dead-year.html

 

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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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Clutter Fire in Bakersfield California



Story From 23ABCnews Bakersfield 

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A messy home made for difficult conditions during an early-morning fire in Northwest Bakersfield.

The fire started at approximately 2:00 a.m. Tuesday in the attic of a small house on Gulf Street.

Firefighters with the Kern County Fire Department said they had a hard time locating the home's address.  The house was built in a primarily industrial area north of Gilmore Drive and west of Highway 99.

When crews arrived on-scene, they said the firefighting effort was made difficult because the home was cluttered with lots of items.

A woman living inside the home managed to escape unharmed.  No firefighters were injured in the blaze, and there is no estimate on damages.
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Heavy Content: Choosing the Right Words

[caption id="attachment_114" align="alignright" width="300"]Hoarder Fire Photo Courtesy of Keven Smith Hoarder Fire Photo Courtesy of Keven Smith


During the past two years I have spent much time and energy studying all aspects of emergency responses inside hoarding conditions.  There is one key point that consistently comes up, interacting with the occupants.  Hoarding or “Compulsive Hoarding” is “the accumulation of and failure to discard a large number of objects that seem to be useless or of limited value, extensive clutter in living spaces that prevents the effective use of the space causing significant distress or impairment caused by hoarding” (Frost and Hartl..1996). The affects of someone having  this disorder takes away the ability to make rational decisions, making process to distinguish between an item with no apparent value and one of great value (example: grocery store coupon vs. baby pictures).   This compulsive behavior can cause problems with first responders when faced with a hoarding situation.  Interaction can prove difficult first due to the unwillingness to leave and second the emotional trauma of strangers touching their “treasures”, understanding and adjusting for these situations is our job to figure out before we run this call.  The first adjustment need to be the terminology that we use.  Let us look at why we should change our terminology to include “Heavy Content” when describing a hoarded environment.


Politically Correct


A very well respected friend of mine that is in a different career once looked me straight in the eye and said “you must be jaded because of all you have seen and dealt with”.  After I digested that statement I realized that is exactly what happens. We are jaded by the countless number of tragic events that we deal with on a daily basis and it most often affects how we interact with someone who is encountering an emergency.   The very first thing that happens to set the tone of the call is how we present our self; this includes body language and the terminology that we choose.  “This is a trash house” or “pack rat conditions” are two terms that first responders use when the discovery of hoarding conditions are found.   How would these terms be received if the occupant overheard their house full of treasures called “trash”?  If someone called you a “pack rat” how would you feel?  They are unable to see their surroundings in your perspective, but it is important for the brief time you spend on the call that you try to see it from theirs.

It is good to remind ourselves of the characteristics of compulsive hoarding disorder.  There is deep emotional attachment to belongings, with the inability to distinguish between trash and treasures.  This compulsion can cause an overload to the occupant if they overheard these terms broadcasted over the radio or yelled out the window.  “Hey chief, this in the interior crews, we have a “trash house”!  this statement seems to be a popular description.  All it would take would be one radio being around the occupants to have a potential for an emergency for them or you.  There have been documented cases of occupants needing to be physically restrained from trying to re-enter a burning home to save their treasures.  Another potential danger is the reaction of the occupant in a violent manner towards the first responders.  Wouldn’t it make all of our shifts easier if we took away this easy negative and replaced it with such an easy fix.

 

Being as compassionate as possible during all emergencies is the best practice scenario for all of us, this remains true when dealing with the occupants of a hoarded environment.  Occupant safety is the biggest concern of any first responder and when the problem is a compulsive hoarder; words can be just as harmful as flames.  Removing terms such as trash house and pack rat conditions will help provide a more neutral environment for the occupant while standardizing the terminology used by first responders.

Heavy Content:  A key term


Another key factor in dealing with hoarded conditions is the amount of belongings and the weight exerted on the structural supports of the building.  Collecting a large amount of belongings can lead to an overloaded structure, even before the first ounce of water is applied.  Using the term “heavy content” should remind all first responders of the overloading potential and collapse risks associated with dealing with a hoarded environment.

A heavy content environment can offer many potential for a collapse, this is usually wither from interior debris falling to a complete collapse of the entire structure.   When a building is over loaded with massive amounts of stuff it has the potential to injure or kill first responders.  Using the heavy content terminology to identify these potential risks should put all responders at a heighten level of awareness to be looking for collapse.  It should also evoke  a thought process needed to identify what is being collected inside the building.  Identifying items such as books, magazines, or car parts can help with the collapse risk assessment.   Another factor that can be used is a hoarding level scale such as the Institute for Challenging Disorganization rating scale of 1-5.  If a level 5 is determined, a No-Entry decision may be the best option.

Conclusion:


Emergency responders are dealing with compulsive hoarding disorder on a daily basis.  There is a huge difference in terminology used worldwide used when describing hoarded conditions, but there is huge effort to change that.  From “Colliers Mansion Syndrome” to “Pack Rat” conditions it seems like your terminology is based on a geographic locations.  It’s time that we standardized terminology to allow us all to understand the conditions, even if we are not familiar with the term.  Heavy Content should be used worldwide to allow a standard, politically correct term to describe these conditions.  It offers cues to us all, even if you have never heard of the term before.  Being mindful of the compulsion and trying to remain respectful to it will allow us to have an improved public perception and protect ourselves from the potential for confrontation with the occupants.

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Adjustments for Hoarder Fires

If you arrive on scene of a structure fire, would you flow water through an open window

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


before making an interior push?  Transitional attack or flowing water through an opening in the exterior of a building, which is on fire, has been an often-debated tactic that had no scientific data to prove or disprove this type of suppression technique, until now.  At this year’s Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis Indiana NIST, with a partnership with the FDNY, presented their findings from a recent study on fire dynamics and tactics used.  The experiments conducted on Randal’s Island looked at different variables such as flow paths, water application, and thermal balances from each.  While watching this ground breaking study one thing kept coming to mind, Hoarder Fires.  Stacks of belongings that have taken over a structure can add a level of danger to any firefighter who makes entry.  It can also affect the variables covered by the NIST study.  Let’s look at a few of the variables exposed by the release of this ground breaking presentation and how they relate to the Hoarded Environment.

Flow Paths


One of the variables released in the study was the flow of super-heated smoke, unburned fuel.  If a firefighter does not ventilate a structure and proceeds through a door, they are crawling right into the “flow path” of heat and smoke. Hearing this information given merit with scientific evidence shouldn’t come as a surprise to any firefighter who has crawled a dark hallway.  Now that we have the data to back up our suspicions let’s take a look at the hoarded environment.

If a house has Heavy Content environment inside it has the potential for having multiple flow paths. Depending on the level of belongings, the airflow can be forced through the narrow pathways formed by the stacks of stuff.  What does this mean to an interior firefighter? Unlike entering a “normal” structure fire, a firefighter may not get relief for the heat like a firefighter who has progressed through a door and moved out of the flow path.  Channeling the heat through pathways can bring the heat directly down on an advancing firefighter. Add a variable, such as stacked belongings that raise a firefighter up to two feet higher, our PPE may be pushed to its limits.

Heat Level Reduction


Another variable revealed in the NIST study was the change in heat levels after the application of water streams.  To summarize the findings they applied water to the first floor fire and measured the second floor temperatures.  The also revealed the difference between an open door and a closed door.  These different variables can be applied to the hoarder fire environment.

First was the evidence of heat reduction with the application of water. It has been believed if we apply water through a window that we reduce the survival chances of a potential victim.  This study proved that if water is applied on a first floor fire the second floor temperatures went down.  If we were truly thinking about how this works it makes since, fire knockdown the heat should be knocked down.  Let us apply these findings to the hoarded environment.  If you apply water to a first floor fire, will there be enough airflow available to cool the upstairs?

Can you isolate a bedroom in hoarded conditions? Hoarder conditions can prevent an occupant or firefighter from closing interior doors.  As the clutter piles up to ceiling level and spills out into the hallways you may not be able to apply either of these two methods.  How does this affect an interior firefighter?  If you make entry into a fire and expect the ability to isolate yourself from the fire by closing an interior door you can be exposing yourself to higher heat levels.  Once a determination has been made that Heavy Contents are present all firefighters must estimate that interior doors will NOT close, due to the level of clutter.

Conclusion


All firefighters should take the time to review the latest release from NIST.  There works have been groundbreaking and this one is no different.  Take an hour out of your hectic schedule to watch and learn.  While you review this material, keep in mind that these rules may or may not apply to the hoarded environment.  Cluttered homes can add variables that will affect each one of their findings.  Blocked flow paths and doors that cannot be closed with complicate the use of these new findings.  While they can NOT be scientifically proven at this time we should all adjust for them if a hoarding condition has been discovered.

Watch the presentation from NIST, FDIC, and FDNY here.

 
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Heavy Content Fire Russellville Pa

By Assistant Fire Chief Sam Terry


[caption id="attachment_387" align="alignright" width="198"]Pictures Courtesy of Oxford Fire Department Pictures Courtesy of Oxford Fire Department


April 30, 2013

***WITH AUDIO***

Box 2104

At 0643 hours, the Union Fire Company No. 1 and the Cochranville Fire Company (27) was alerted for a reported house on fire in the 200 block of Old Limestone Road in the Russellville section of Upper Oxford Township.



Engine 27-2 was the first to arrive reporting smoke showing. The Engine pulled into the driveway and the crew deployed an 1.75" into the house.

Assistant 21 (Terry) arrived immediately after and established the "Old Limestone Command" and requested the Box to be filled. This added the Bart Township Fire Company (51) and the West Grove Fire Company (12/22/32).

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


Engine 21-1 (Capt. Obenchain) arrived and took the end of the driveway. The crew stretched a 5" supply line to Engine 27-2 and then went into the scene and deployed a second 1.75" handline.

Crews encountered intense heat and smoke throughout the house as they attempted to advance. Due to the interior conditions, both crews backed out and began an exterior attack.

Read More Here 

Audio From Fire Here 

 

Chamber of Hoarder Learning Points:



  • First arriving supervisor called for the second alarm immediately

  • Interior crews pulled out once they discovered the heavy contents

  • Crews attacked from the sides

  • Rehab sector was established and extended

  • Overhaul was extended to account for the amount of belongings

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Firefighter Dies in Suspected Hoarder Fire

Today is a sad day for the fire service as we mourn the loss of Firefighter Gene Kirchner.  Gene was a member of the Riesterstown Volunteer Fire Department who responded to 19 Hanover Road on April 24, 2013.  Firefighter Kirchner was conducting a search for confirmed occupants trapped when a crew member discovered him with his PASS alarm activated.  He was pulled from the fire in Cardiac Arrest and transported to a local Hospital where he ultimately passed away from his injuries (According to Multiple News Sources)

FF Gene Kirchner


While the investigation continues into this tragic event, the initial audio from the fire shows indications of a Hoarder Environment.  At the 07:48 mark of the on scene audio the interior crew find the downed firefighter and announce “I think we have a Hoarder House”.  The interior conditions have not been released yet, but we all should take a moment to review hoarder fires.

As we mourn the loss of FF Kirchner we all send thoughts and prayers to his family and the members of the Baltimore County Maryland Fire Department.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life” John 15:13

Funeral Details can be found Here: RVFC.ORG

Local news coverage:

Statter911.com 

Wjz.com

Firehouse.com 

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Hoarder Homes: More Dangers than Fire

As first Responders we understand the dangers associated with responding to many types IMG_0835of emergencies.  From auto accidents on busy interstates to working house fires with potential hazardous materials we train on these types of events and how to protect ourselves from dangers associated with them. One danger that continues to be overlooked is the exposure risks found inside hoarder homes.  Often with the accumulation of massive amounts of belongings come the associated risks from exposure to many types of infectious disease and bio-hazards materials.  A first responders can be exposed to these dangers when walking into a situation to assist, such as a emergency medical run or assistance call.  Many of us have suspected that the houses we have been going into were dangerous, how dangerous may have been severly underestimated.  Let’s review some of the potential exposures first responders may face inside the hoarded environment.



Air Quality

Airborne contaminants inside a hoarding environment can present dangers not seen by the naked eye.  Often when entering these environments first responders do not take in account the unseen dangers.  From elevated ammonia levels to aerosolized mold anyone who enters these areas unprotected can be facing danger.  These elevated levels can be caused my animal urine, decomposing animals, fecal matter, and mold.

One common risk that can be managed with ventilation is the exposure to ammonia.  Ammonia is a irritant to the eyes and upper airway tract at or below the exposure threshold of 50-PPM (Parts Per Million). Without the proper application of ventilation the responder can be exposed to up to 150 PPM of ammonia.  This is 3 times more than the limit set by OSHA.   Ref.. (The Hoarding of animals Research Consortium) Without accurate gas meters the only detection device we will have in our sense of smell.  If you identify a heavy content environment and begin to smell high ammonia levels do not enter without aggressively ventilate the structure or use a SCBA to reduce the risks when high ammonia levels are present.

 Misc. Exposures

Without understanding the risks first responders are potentially risking their own personal health and safety when entering the hoarded environment.  Here is a list of potential exposures that have been documented inside a hoarded environment.

Human to Human

  • Listeria

  • Hepatitis A and B

  • Scabies

  • Pneumonia

  • Shingle


Animal to Human

  • Tapeworm

  • Hanta Virus

  • Psittacosis

  • Cat Scratch Disease


How many of these diseases are communicable?  Without even knowing that we have been exposed we can take them home to our families, my worst fear.  If we don’t take the time to protect ourselves from exposures we could potentially place our families at risks.

PPE Discussions.

What types of PPE do you carry?  First responders only have a few choices available when selecting respiratory and splash protection.  At a MINIMUM we should be using our N-95 mask and turnout gear when entering a hoarded environment.  While a n-95 might not protect you from all contaminants it will offer some level of protection.  If the levels are extremely elevated a SCBA can be used to enter the environment.  Choosing to use a SCBA is the best option that we have available as first responders but does offer some challenges interacting with the occupant, if conscious.  We will have more info on that coming, but for this article just realizing that you should be wearing one will be enough.

Protecting yourself from contact with biohazards can be another challenge as the belongings will be stacked so  high touching them will be unavoidable.  Using gowns, coveralls, tyvex suits, or turnout gear can offer contact protection as you enter.  While none of these seem practical, except your turnout gear, they should be considered when entering this dangerous environment.  One key point is the potential for patient and/or responder decontamination.

 

 

Conclusion:
First responders worldwide have been dealing with hoarding conditions for years.  When was the last time you considered that the dangers inside can harm you and your family.  Taking the time to identify that hoarding is present, choosing the most appropriate levels of PPE, ventilating the area, and having decontamination available you will increase your safety and reduce the exposure to harmful materials.  Would you ever go into a fire unprotected?  Hoarding conditions can cause multiple problems for first responders and we have the potential to be “Most Exposed” during an assistance or EMS call.  Take the time to identify, adjust, and attack hoarding with the proper level of PPE.
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Mayday sounded at Hoarder Fire



Listen to this bone chilling audio of a firefighter mayday while battling a three alarm fire in Hoarded conditions.  Once the mayday was sounded the interior crews transmitted the announcement of Hoarder Fire .  Sending prayers out to the firefighter who was removed in critical conditions.

Links to News Coverage:

Firehouse

WBAL 
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Complications of Searching inside Hoarder Conditions

Station and units respond to XYZ Street for the structure fire with confirmed people trapped.  This could possibly be the most intense statement ever heard over your dispatch channel.  Immediately everyone goes into a rescue mode and everyone’s focus goes to locating the victim as saving lives,  our number one priority.

Searching and locating victims inside a house fire can be challenging process that will physically drain your firefighters in minutes.  Most firefighter chooses a type of search pattern to start with and can adjust when the search has encountered difficulty.  Hoarding conditions is a difficulty that will need adjusted for when a search is to be performed.  Compulsive hoarding disorder will cause a person to overload their homes with things that have no apparent value to you and I, what rooms do they start their collections in?

[caption id="attachment_324" align="alignright" width="120"]Hoarder Fire 4/2013 Hoarder Fire 4/2013


While not an absolute truth, many people that suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder begin their collections in attic spaces and basements.  Once full of belongings their collection will spill into the living spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms.  This compulsive collecting makes the living spaces that are usable become limit. How should you adjust you searching once the heavy content discovery has been made?  Let’s review some complications faced when searching for trapped victims.

 



Collapsed belongings

A recent news story of a compulsive hoarder that was reported missing for days just to be discovered days later drives home the need for an intense focus when searching.  Collapsing belongings can cover up victims and trap searching firefighters.   Compulsive hoarding disorder can attribute to a number of belongings being collected, from piles of newspapers to car parts a firefighter needs to anticipate finding various types of collections behind the doors of a hoarded home.   A few common types of belongings often collected are newspapers, DVD cases, and magazines will be stacked from floor a possible ceiling level.  Each of these stacks individually will not offer many challenges but put them all in the same small space and the chance for debris falling as a occupant tries to self extricated from the house can cover them, easily.

 

Where to start searching

Many hoarder conditions  have rooms filled to capacity and often the last to rooms to be filled are the bathroom and kitchen.  While this may seem like a useless finding, it may offer you a starting point of your search not usually thought of.  If a fire were to happen at 0200 in a residential neighborhood most firefighters would begin in the bedroom area.  In hoarded environments the bedroom may not be used for sleeping.  When sizing up a heavy content environment determining the locations and the levels of hoarding is important.  If the smoke conditions allow this the bedrooms should be assessed transmit findings to all firefighters on scene.

If the bedrooms assessment tends to show an unusable space your search will need to begin in the spaces that are usable   Starting a search in the kitchen or bathrooms may be where you will find an occupant.  This is especially true if the occupant is alerted to the fire and tries to escape.  It has been documented that firefighters have made successful rescues from these two areas. Hoarder Fire Training

One problem with starting your search inside a kitchen or bathroom is the access to them.  Often these rooms can have limited access from the outside.  This means that you will have to battle your way through a area that could potentially be hoarded beyond use.  Using tactics from the exterior will offer the firefighters a barrier of safety but if you choose to go through the “goat paths” you will need to make an extra effort to stay oriented, increase crew size, and be prepared to deal with the collapsing piles of debris.

 

Final thoughts

If you are alerted to people trapped in a Hoarder Fire you should take notice that they may be covered by their own belongings.  Adjusting your search patterns, moving the piles, and sweeping under stacks of belongings are all successful tactics to use when searching in the hoarded environment.  All of these tasks should be conducted under the direction of an interior officer and assisted with the use of a Thermal Imagine Camera.  Sweeping the area with a TIC can help you see any abnormal stacks of stuff that could be hiding a victim.

In your next search drill add some different variables to it like stacks of belongings and obstacles to search under in case you are tasked with searching in a hoarded environment to make sure we all go home.

 

Here are some links to the New Jersey Case  http://www.northjersey.com/news/Sad_story_of_New_Milford_womans_death_puts_spotlight_on_disorder_of_hoarding.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/partly-mummified-woman-found-n-apt-article-1.1317931
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