Hoarder Fires: If you see something…Say Something

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

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



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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

Structural Damage

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

 



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

Lingering Toxins

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

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

 

PPV during Overhaul

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

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

 

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



Story From  Wchs6

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

The house caught fire early Sunday morning.

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

They uncovered the bodies of the Garlands later that night.

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

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

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Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters



Hoarder Fire


Monday January 14, 2012


1300 EDT



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New Mexico Hoarder Fire Death


Police ID woman found after house fire


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



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

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

Arson investigators are still working to determine the cause.

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

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

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

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

Read More Here

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



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



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

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


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


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

The victim was found alone inside the house.

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

Read More   Here 
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PPE punishment in Hoarder Fires

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

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



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

 8"]What temp was this?

What temp was this?


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

 

Here are a few Chamber tips to help reduce exposure:

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

 

    • Do Not crawl over the stacks

 

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

 

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

 

    • Ventilation can help reduce the heat level



 

 

 

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

 

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Go old School on Hoarder Fires

 

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

 ]Cellar Nozzle

Cellar Nozzle


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



 

Here are a few points in using a cellar nozzle:

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

 

    • Breach an exterior wall high, place through the hole

 

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

 

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



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

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


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

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Hoarder's Conditions in Mount Rainier House Fire



From Hyattsville Fire Departments Website

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

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

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

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

How do we deal with this problem?

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


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



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

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

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


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

 

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

 

Be safe. .
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Two Immediate Decisions for a Hoarder Fire

Good afternoon from the Chamber.  Often when we are asked what should we do when Heavy Contents are discovered?  This question has many responses but two should be made IMMEDIATELY.

Announce Heavy Contents


[caption id="attachment_141" align="alignright" width="134"]Hoarder fire Photo Shepardstown WV Fire Dept. Hoarder fire Photo Shepardstown WV Fire Dept.


 

First thing that should happen is the announcement of "Colliers Mansion",  "Heavy Content" or whatever your department uses to identify a large amount of clutter or belongings.  Departments should encourage anyone that makes this discovery to make the announcement.  From the street level jumpseat rider to the high chief anyone should communicate the discovery and command should announce it to all units on scene and responding.  When command communicates this announcement we all should go into a defensive mindset.  Defensive in that we should prepare to deal with collapse risks, entanglement hazards, structural weakness and a general increase in workload.


Request Additional Units


Secondly command should order additional units to the scene.  Whether its a one and one or a complete second alarm you are going to need the additional manpower to mange these conditions.  Firefighters work time will be lower, air supply will not last as long, and the need for fresh crews will be increased as they deal with these piles of belongings.

Having additional firefighters on scene in the staging area and not be needed is whole lot better than having worn out firefighters doing overhaul and pushing themselves beyond exhaustion.  Call early, call often, and rotated out regulatory when facing Heavy Content fires.

Listen to the Below as the Claymont Delaware Fire Department Make a grab in Colliers Conditions.......



 
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Estimating Burn time in Hoarder Fires

One of the most important observation and/or decisions a first arriving officer to a

[caption id="attachment_133" align="alignright" width="180"]Photo By Keven Smith Photo By Keven Smith


structure fire is the estimate of how long the fire has been burning.  This observation can help make the attack strategies, points of entries, and help predict structural collapse times.  One complication that needs adjusted for is the identification of hoarding conditions being present.  Hoarding is defined as “The accumulation of and failure to discard large amounts of belongings that have no apparent value”. These belongings begin to take over the rooms, as they will no longer be used for their intended purpose.  Rooms become storage areas and access is limited to narrow pathways.



With belongings added repeatedly, they become packed from floor to ceiling.  When these levels reach a certain point it will limit natural ventilation and act like an insulator if a fire were to happen.  A small smoldering fire can be hidden inside these conditions for hours if no one is home to discover it.  Conditions where ventilation is limited and fire spread can be hidden by the amounts of belongings will also hide a fire that has progressed into the free burning stage.  Smoke that has filled a, already full, room will be pushed out of different seems, cracks, or may be hidden until someone discovers it and opens a fresh airport such as a window or door.

Let us take some time to review some key points of dealing with burn time estimates in Hoarding Conditions:

  • Hoarding can contain smoke for an extended amount of time

  • Compression of belongings can keep a fire from progressing at its normal rate

  • Stacks of stuff provide for more fuel for the fire

  • A deep seated fire in a Hoarding Condition may have been burning for an extended time


 

Today’s firefighters are facing an overwhelming amount of changes to our fire scenes.  From energy efficient windows to extra security exterior doors, we need to be more vigilant in our responses.  If you discover a Hoarding condition on your next fire, you should make some adjustments immediately.  The first one should be to add time to the burn time estimate.  By doing this you will allow a larger margin of error before sending firefighters into these structures.  Estimating burn time is not an exact science; it is just an educated guess.  After reading this blog post, I hope that you add time to your estimate to allow firefighters a shorter work period because in a hoarder fire you can never really tell how long it has been burning.
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Hoarding in EMS Podcast


Listen to internet radio with 1 Union 801 TheWebcast on Blog Talk Radio
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Hoarder Fire: Common Myths

The stories keep coming in as Firefighters are facing more and more fires inside Hoarded Conditions.

  It truly is amazing how many we are facing.  It is troubling to hear many firefighters talk about these conditions and immediately go to the fuel load problem.  Since starting my research into this problem of hoarding I have found many other challenges we need to take on.


All Hoarder homes are packed floor to ceiling  

First off, they have a scale to rate the severity of Hoarding conditions.  A level 1 is the start of the problem and a level 5 being the inhabitable end.  As emergency responders with need to identify these levels to adjust our tactics.  This can be difficult if you arrive to find a small fire that is producing a large amount of thick, black smoke.  Smoke conditions will hamper the identification of hoarding inside windows that may already be blocked as the belongings pile up.



All hoarder fires are big fires

Many times Hoarding can offer up small fires that have huge potential.  Sure, the fuel load is increased but the air flow can also be decreased as the compression of the belongings does not allow for “normal” horizontal or vertical ventilation.  This can lead to small, smoldering, decay stage fires that are waiting on one thing, you.  If you respond to a fire to find black stained windows, a large amount of belongings in the back yard, and one or more blocked doors you will need to take steps to reduce the chance of flashover or backdraft.

“We just won’t go in them”

With this potential of smaller fires the adage of “we won’t go in them” gets thrown out the window.  Can we really let a small trashcan fire escalate into a three alarm fire, um no.  If the fire is in the incipient stage, we will all be the first ones to the door to attack.  It is up to us to find ways of adjusting tactics to provide a safer attack.  It is our job to manage fires in any conditions. Managing fires in hoarder homes can be done safely if you take the time to identify, adjust, and attack
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Expect Hoarding

Another day of Honey-Do checklist getting crossed off I get a tweet from the “Average Jake ‏@AverageJakeFF Now that I'm aware of it they keep popping up in rapid numbers #hoarding #fire #ems #dangerous @Jumpseatviews.  I immediately take to the texting airways to inquire about his experience.  He explains that it was a common occurrence with hoarding conditions.  Medical assist with no cues or clues from the exterior, sound familiar?Hoarder Fires

Hoarding is a disorder that causes the afflicted to be very reclusive.  This behavior is attributed to many factors such as embarrassment, shame, and/or guilt as they understand that they have a compulsion to collect things, many that have no apparent value.  This reclusive nature can make a person not allow anyone, including family members, to enter their house.  Behavior like this can continue until outside help is needed, often the fire department.

Hoarding has many dangers associated with it that include biohazards, fall hazards, insect or rodent infestations, and general poorly maintained structural conditions.  This problem can go unnoticed or untouched for years until the occupant has an emergency then it is our problem to deal with.

Let us review some key points of Hoarding Response:

  • If you see something, say something

  • Size up of the structure as you approach

  • Carry respiratory protection, even on medical runs

  • Don’t be afraid to “back the truck up” and get help


Just like Jakes experience, we often find ourselves deep into a structure before we identify these conditions.  This can be dangerous to our health and safety.  Carrying an n95 respirator may be required as we face these conditions more often.   High ammonia levels mixed with mold are just two of the dangers that we face inside a hoarding condition.  They both carry serious health effects with them.  It is time for us to “back the truck up” and protect ourselves from the dangers of Hoarding.

This starts with identifying and reporting hazardous houses to our fellow members.  Without giving out private information, anything that violates HIPPA, we should identify these homes and have them flagged as dangerous.  Allowing every member to report, these conditions will help spread the word and give us time to prepare for the hazards we will face!  If you respond to a hoarding condition, allow yourself some extra time to add the proper level of PPE.  Their hoarding took years to accumulate, allow you enough time to make sure we all go home!
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St. Petersburg Hoarder Fire Kills 9 Dogs





  • By: Kay Long





ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Nine dogs lost their lives in a house fire early Sunday morning at 5998 12th Street North. St. Petersburg Fire Lieutenant Joel Granata says the owner of the home was out and came home to find her home in flames.

Granata says there were ten dogs inside the house, and only one made it out of the one story masonry house alive. He also tells ABC Action News the female owner was a hoarder, and that made the fire difficult to put out.

No cause for the fire has been determined yet.

The Red Cross is helping the homeowner find another place to stay.



Read more: http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/region_south_pinellas/st_petersburg/pets-die-in-st-petersburg-fire#ixzz2G6KAk6EO
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Hoarder House Fire.



This is a great video of a "Classic" hoarder condtions.  Pay close attention to the overhaul phase of the firefight.  Overhauling a Hoarder home is labor intensive and will tax your crews to their limits!!!
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Housefire kills hoarder



 


dated: Monday, 02 Jul 2012, 4:42 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 02 Jul 2012, 4:42 PM EDT

  • Gilma Avalos





DAVIE, Fla. (WTVJ) - A deadly fire erupted in a home in Davie, Florida Saturday morning killing an elderly woman that officials believe may have been a hoarder.

The Davie Police Department said firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze but found the woman dead inside, lying near the door.

"It appears she was overcome by the smoke and was unable to make it through to the door and exit the residence safely," Police Captain Dale Engle said.

Fire officials spent the morning clearing the home of debris and a slew of newspapers that littered the home.

Engle said it appears the woman was a hoarder.

He said the woman used a walker to move around but the walker was not by the door where she was found.

The victim has not yet been identified.

Authorities responded to the home after reports of smoke emanating from a house shortly before 7 a.m., police said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The incident remains under investigation.





Housefire kills hoarder

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Mobile Home Fire Showed Danger of Hoarder Lifestyle

http://www.wbay.com

By Jennifer Wilson

Manitowoc -

An explosion and fire destroyed a mobile home in Manitowoc late Thursday night.

At about 10 p.m., crews responded to Lakeland Manor Mobile Home Park on Waldo Boulevard for the report of an explosion in the rear of the home.

Authorities say the owner of the mobile home was able to get out safely. No one was hurt.

It took firefighters about an hour to put out the flames. They said fighting the fire was difficult because the owner had a lot of items in the home, some stacked up to the windows. Blocking doorways, items had to be removed from the home to create a path.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

Firefighters say the sheer amount of "stuff" in the home made fighting the fire more difficult and more dangerous. And it's a problem fire departments are seeing more often.

"We had a fire here in Oshkosh three or four weeks ago in a house that was exceptionally full of debris and accumulation of trash," Mark Boettcher, a battalion chief with the Oshkosh Fire Department, said.

It's what firefighters call "a large fire load," and it causes the fire to grow bigger, faster.

"It's very difficult to fight a fire because it's hard for us to move around," Boettcher said.

While there are no official records of how many fire calls involve excessive clutter, Boettcher says it seems to be happening more.

"I think we see it more often than we have in the past," he said. "At least, it's more evident here lately."

"Throughout the 12 years I have seen a variety of issues regarding home conditions," Natalie Vandeveld, who works for the Outagamie County Health Department, said.

Including hoarding.

Besides the extreme fire danger, disease is another danger. Vandeveld tries to reach out and help residents.

"Definitely gaining access to the home has been a challenge," she said.

She says hoarding is triggered by other issues. It's a sensitive topic but a dangerous problem that friends and family shouldn't be afraid to address.

Link to Video
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Hoarding Blog from Houston

The hot new sydrome these days is hoarding -- people can't get enough reality TV shows about poor idiots who can't throw anything away, even if those people watching have to shove aside three boxes of 11-year-old Fuddrucker's receipts just to see the screen.

But things have gotten real, hoarding-wise, in the Houston burbs.

There was the fire at 34th and Antoine Friday night. Not a big blaze, but it did present its unique challenges, according to KPRC: "Fire crews said the home was stacked high with clutter, making it difficult to get inside and fight the fire," the station reports. (We're sure the "clutter" was absolutely important stuff that couldn't be tossed out under any circumstances.)

And then there's the home on Slash Pines Road in The Woodlands.



Authorities have blocked access to the house after one of the dozens of people working on it may have contracted hantavirus, a nasty rodent-related piece of business everyone would just as soon avoid.

The worker developed a respiratory illness, and tests will be done to see if it was caused by a hantavirus, the Houston Chronicle reported.

(Also involved: Friends of the Houston Public Library, which received a big book donation from the home before the hantavirus thing emerged.)

The Woodlands home is being featured in TLC's titled lovingly and subtly titled seriesHoarding: Buried Alive.

The show's website, by the way, features a "Hoarding Photo Game"a "Hoarder Or Just Messy?" quiz and a casting call in case you want to show the world your hoarding ways. ("For those willing to participate, we will offer assistance with finding licensed therapists as well as professional organizers who can offer support," the site says.)

We're sure the neighbors of the Slash Pines home are fully into the spirit of the hoarding show, and are not concerned at all about rats and mice running around spreading sickness.

The home remains quarantined.

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