Case Study Citizens Fire Company

Case Study Citizens Fire Company

Citizens-Fire-Company-Case-Study-_20150828-143741_1.pdf

Citizens Fire Company 

Independence Fire Company

February 3 2015

Introduction

Developing the skills and education as a firefighter requires constant evaluation and learning from different sources. Learning from the experiences of others is a good way of learning from others successes and challenges.  This case study was graciously shared by the firefighters of the Citizens Fire Company in Charlestown WV. The transparency of their members in discussing this challenging fire was inspiring.  

Aim 

The aim of this case study and accompanying audio interview is to share the lessons learned from this Heavy Content Fire to help other departments understand the challenges faced that day and how to better prepare for Heavy Content Fires.

Learning Activity 

Review the incident information and discuss the affects of Hoarding. Focus your efforts on how the clutter, confusion, and persistence of the on scene firefighters lead to a successful outcome in challenging conditions. Discuss how building construction, fire volume, cluttered conditions, and hazards can lead to danger. Listen, read, and then apply the lessons learned to your operational methods to have a better understanding. 

Case Audio

 

http://traffic.libsyn.com/jumpseatradio/Citizens_fire_Company_Case_Study_.mp3

 

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It must be the Air: The Importance of Air in Heavy Content Fires

It must be the Air: The Importance of Air in Heavy Content Fires

As you look into the basic physics of fire there are three elements needed to support combustions (burning): heat, fuel, and oxygen. Out of the three elements needed, one of these has a heightened level of importance when you are fighting fires in heavy content conditions.

Would it be the heat? There is a noted presence of heat and it can be reduced. However,will you have the opportunity to remove enough of the heat, could you stop the burning process, so it's not heat. Consider the fuel, if the firefighters are able to remove the cluttered items from the burn area, would that extinguish the fire? If that process is ineffective then we know it is not fuel. That leaves air, it must be the air!

To understand the importance of air in the heavy content fires, consider structures that are loaded full of belongings from years of collecting and how they will provide endless amounts of fuel. In fact, many of these fires have enough fuel to burn for days. By considering fire tactics that eliminate heat and fuel and realizing how difficult they can be, it will allow the focus to fall directly on the available air. Air can have a huge influence on fire growth, but in hoarding conditions it most often is the variable that has the most influence. The amount of air available will determine if the fire will progress to decay or progress into the growth phase of a fire.

There are so many scenario's to consider in heavy content fire, but for the purpose of this article consider that there was a fire in a sealed basement or home that had fully functional windows and doors. In that situation, the amount of air could be minimal; depending on what doors might be open, the level of clutter, and the location of the fire. These variables could affect the how long a fire could burn without being discovered which would give the fire enough time to cause significant damage to floor and roof joists as well as floor decking. Add in the weight from the clutter and a pending collapse could be near, again all of this could happen before the fire is discovered.

Taking the time to study and understand theses variables will give firefighters a better knowledge of the added dangers posed by extreme clutter and prompt a more thorough size up. Being aware of these three variables when you arrive to a reported structural fire and seeing that the property has the external signs of hoarding (such as cluttered yards), officers need to investigate for signs of extended burn times. The best method would be to do a thermal imaging 360 size-up to discover the hottest parts of the structure while also indicating where the coldest area's are located, keeping in mind you are looking to see where the fire is presently and where it will go if you give it air.

Finding fires in the decay stage should raise suspicion of an extended burn time, while finding a fire well into the growth phase could indicate a ventilated fire. Both of these findings could indicate extended burn times. Just because the fire has progressed into the growth phase does not indicated shorter burn times. It indicates that the fire has found an air source.

If the fire is in this vent limited state firefighters should try to do everything possible to keep it that way. Leaving windows, doors, and stacks of clutter in place to limit the fresh air intake will allowing enough time for the appropriate staffing levels to arrive, limit fire spread, and keep the fire smaller. By limiting the air and fire growth it will make the conditions better for attack or rescue(If needed)

Without control of the air, loss of multiple windows or the inability to close doors, firefighters should set up for defensive operations that employ large caliber streams placed outside the collapse zone. Heavy Content conditions that are feed with large amounts of air will progress quickly. Often surpassing the GPM of standard sized handlines. If these variables are uncontrollable firefighters should assume the fire will continue to intensify even if handlines are in place.

Utilizing corners of the building to place apparatus, stream reach, and hose lengths will keep firefighters away from the dangers of collapse or overgrown trees. It will also give a area of refuge if the yard is full of clutter and the fire extends to that clutter. Fire extending to yard clutter can rapidly spread across the tops of the stacks as it will have all the air needs. Wind conditions can cause this horizontal spread to reach speeds faster than firefighters running in turnout gear. It is essential for firefighters to pay close attention if the fire extends into the yard and perform a quick retreat to prevent this potential disaster.

Controlling the air is essential when battling homes with unlimited amounts of fuel. Having control can allow for a rescue or interior push, while not having control is a indicator of defensive operation until enough water can be applied and/or air control can be established.

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Hoarder Fire Case Study Elyria Ohio

Hoarder Fire Case Study Elyria Ohio

Location: Elyria Ohio
Responding Agency: Elyria Fire Department
Event Date: January 18, 2015
Event Type: Working Structure fire with Victim Trapped Location: Skylark Court Elyria Ohio
Time:1600 Hours b2ap3_thumbnail_Elyria-Hoarder-Fire-North-Coast-now-.jpg

Approximately 1600 hours on January 18th the Elyria Ohio fire department was alerted to a house fire.  The initial dispatch was directed to an industrial area with a large warehouse structure and first arriving unit advised nothing showing. Updated dispatch information redirected the responding units to the correct address and also advised the responding chief of confirmed occupant trapped.  Dispatch also passed along information from the caller that the occupant was a “Hoarder”and they could see visible flames. 

Engine 3 arrived on scene with smoke showing throughout the structure with the heaviest amounts seen from division 2. Engine 3 chose and offensive posture with 1 3/4 sized line for primary search and fire control. Ladder 7 advised heaviest fire division 2 side c while chief 3 instructed them to ventilate vertically.  Rescue 31 directed for occupant search and rescue. Supply line was established by engine 4.  An unknown unit advised chief 3 of an awning that is compromised by fire with “a lot of trash underneath it”.  

Upon hearing that report Chief 3 ordered an emergency manpower recall.  Shortly thereafter Chief 3 was advised fire was extending to upper floors and roof.  A transitional attack was used after the discovery of fire extension the roof area.  Chief 3 then requests a MABAS box alarm assignment 1341 to respond and stand bye.  Second due company advised they were unavailable due to another assignment.  Chief 3 then advised the box would be sufficient without them and requested the fire prevention and training officer to the seen.  

Shortly after that transmission unknown member advised the chief of fire on side C “coming through the vent hole”.  At the 20 minute mark Chief 3 described their operation as a “marginal offensive attack”having difficulty making entry and are unable to locate the victim.  Chief 3 a then advised of heavy fire in the awning area again.  Additional units began to respond from the call back.  At the 40 minute mark Chief 3 announced that they were going defensive due to the amount of stuff inside. 

(The above information obtained from the command channel audio files. )

Operational functions Overview 

Initial alarm assignments chose and aggressive interior posture for search and fire control.  These crews were met with hoarding conditions with pathways as means of traveling between rooms.  There initial tactical objective was to search the upstairs of the home, where they believed the occupant was located.  What they found in the process of making entry to division 2 (the upstairs) is that it was full of belongings with no pathways.  Upon this realization the crews began to use VES procedures (vent, enter, search) to gain access to the rooms via outside windows. 

During this process firefighters had to remove multiple tress to gain access to the windows. They chose the oriented search as ways of positive location management, due to the walls being unusable for orientation.  

Firefighters also began to search on the first floor where one truck company captain described conditions changing from moderate to severe in a shorter than normal time period.  He also describe the stacks being so high at one point his “air pack was dragging the ceiling.”  With the combined efforts of fire control and search proving to be ineffective Chief 3 ordered all firefighters out of the building and into a defensive posture.  

Once out of the structure Chief 3 requested an excavator to the scene for building demolition and to search for the occupant.  They were able to locate the victim, under debris, on the first floor. The victim had the house so full of belongings that she could no longer use the second floor and had retreated to the first floor for day to day living. 

Overhaul and building demolition continued for hours and the aftermath is beyond words.  

Conclusion

The fire that occurred in Elyria Ohio is a remarkable case study of success. While the occupant was not saved the operations used sound fire ground practices and aggressive procedures to contain the fire and preform a search.  Risk versus reward was constantly used and communication was affective during the entire operation.  One of the biggest learning points from this particular fire is the incident commander and his control over the fire scene.  By effectively communicating with the operational firefighters everyone understood their assignments, performed accordingly, and came home safe.  Very few suggestions for improvement are seen from the operational standpoint, but more towards having a common reporting system that can lead to affective pre fire planning.  

Elyria Successes 
  • Dispatch advised crews of Hoarding Conditions
  • Strong Command presence 
  • Great communication from interior to command and back 
  • Interior crews minimized firefighters inside 
  • Basic Fire ground functions were assigned and performed 
  • Additional Firefighters called in quickly 
  • 20 Minute updates and reports given and used 
  • Constant updates from around the structure 
  • Defensive operations initiated in a timely fashion
  • Excavators called in 

  • Elyria Opportunities 

 

  • Initiate a Pre Plan Process (Building officials had visited homes multiple times)
  • Utilize Police, Fire, Ems, and utilities to locate and identify Hoarding Conditions
  • Initiate common terminology to describe conditions (Suggested “Heavy Content”)

 

Download the full report Below 

Elyria-Hoarding-Fire-Case-Study-.pdf

 

 

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Hoarding conditions made fire difficult to fight, official says

b2ap3_thumbnail_2-27-15-wrightsville-fire-06-jpg.jpg

 

 

WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. —Six adults and one a child are out of their home after fire through it Friday morning in Wrightsville, York County.The fire started in a basement laundry room around 4:30 a.m. at the home along the 500 block of Walnut Street between 5th and 6th streets. The homeowner told News 8 that he tried to fight the fire with an extinguisher, but the flames were too much. The state police fire marshal is investigating, but because damage is so extensive, the cause is not yet clear. Firefighters said the blaze was difficult to fight due to hoarding conditions in the basement.

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Cats killed in Hoarding Fire

cats

Hoarding fire kills Cats in New Mexico 

Albuquerque firefighters say six cats died in a house fire Sunday morning. The incident happened around 11 a.m. on Alder Drive NW near Unser. The homeowner wasn't injured, but she did lose six of her cats. Another five were taken to the veterinarian. The Albuquerque Fire Department says the fire was contained to one room and extinguished quickly. But what they found inside the home appalled them. "This was a hoarding situation. Lots of garbage and feces on the ground this fire could've been much worse because of all that extra fuel in the house," said Larry Gallegos, Bernalillo County spokesperson. "You don't normally have that much fuel, papers and boxes stacked up so high. All of that is fuel for fire that's what makes it so dangerous." According to Bernalillo County Animal Care ordinance, in most cases, residents are not allowed to have more their four animals in their home without a permit. Albuquerque fire said two of her cats are still roaming the neighborhood. If you see them, call animal control at 311.

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Rats found in Hoarded Apartment

Rats found in Hoarded Apartment

WEST PALM BEACH (CBS12) - The problem of hoarding came into focus in a neighborhood near West Palm Beach on Wednesday.

Frank Buttaravoli's company, Hello Junk Removal, got a call about a man whose condo was filled with packaged food. The owner had placed cans at the base of piles of boxed and bagged staples, filling the man's living room, dining room and bedroom.

About an hour into the job of hauling away the thousands of packages, rodent sounds could be heard in the apartment.

Eventually worker Rafael Sinkal found what appeared to be a nest of rats, and the animals went scurrying in every direction.

"I have not in any hoarder situation seen rats running around like children on a playground," said Buttaravoli.

Unfortunately neighbors were already aware of the rodent problem.

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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

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2015-02-10-at-8.01.00-PM.png

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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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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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Hoarding Dangers for First Responders

Hoarder Fire

Since the days of the Collyer Brothers, in Manhattan, first responders have been dealing with the excessive accumulation of belongings caused by compulsive hoarding disorder. We have just “dealt” with the challenges and continued on our way to solve the problem. Today we are seeing an abundance of these types of emergencies.  Many different theories exist on why we are seeing an increase in the number of compulsive hoarders, but without a doubt emergency responders are seeing an, almost, epidemic level of responses inside hoarding conditions.

Compulsive Hoarding disorder is defined as: The accumulation of and failure to discard large amounts of belongings that have little or no value.  This compulsive accumulation eventually takes over their home to where it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

How does this disorder directly affect the first responders?

As the accumulation of belongings start the dangers to the occupants and first responders big to pile up, just like the stacks of stuff.  The challenging environment that follows offers challenges with entry, exit, and an increase in available fuel for a fire.  Along with these challenges firs responders can be faced with multiple biological dangers caused from rodents, human, and animal waste.  Each one of these dangers is major challenges for first responders.

[caption id="attachment_158" align="alignright" width="180"]Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire. Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire.


Who discover these environments?

People that are afflicted with compulsive hoarding disorder are very reclusive and often do not allow people to enter their homes.  Many of these folks feel “embarrassed” or “ashamed” as they are aware of how their disorder is seen by people.  If no one is allowed to enter their home it is common for the first responders are often the first people to discover the conditions. They will keep to themselves until they have a medical emergency, fire, or experience a need to call 911. This call brings the local responders to the environment, often unprepared for what they find.

What are the Cues and Clues that hoarding is Present?

One of the most common questions asked: “Can you tell from the outside of a house that Hoarding conditions exist?”  The answer is, YES.  While it is not a 100% certainty there are some common ques and clues that can lead you to assume that the home is filled with belongings.   Identifying these common clues will lead to a better informed decision making process and adjustments to keep responders safer.

Why did you choose this topic?

Many folks ask why Ryan chose this topic.  Just like many fire departments that call for presentations on this topic my home department ran back to back fires in hoarder conditions.  Much like most to Google I went and what was discovered was amazing, NOTHING.  Keyword searching for Hoarder Fires, Hoarding Firefighting, Hoarding dangers to First Responders, and others resulted in large amounts of documentation of the Mental Health Aspects of this disorder, but no attention was being given to the first responders who go rushing in…

How often are these emergencies happening?

It seems like every day another story of a hoarding emergency is being reported, somewhere in the world.

Here are some links from the Past week:

Baldwin Fire Company

Wayland Massachusetts

Evendale Ohio

These are just three examples in the past number of weeks.

How can the Chamber of Hoarders Learning Center Help?

With training budgets shrinking faster than a sinking ship, we searched for an affordable alternative to offer our class to the fire-ems service.   From these request the chamber of Hoarders Learning Center was born.  It is a 24-7, 365, accessible, and affordable option for responders to sit through 4 plus hours of education.  It can be viewed on mobile, desktop, tablet, or any device with internet access.chamber_hoarders_special_offer

Do you travel to present?

Yes, Ryan Pennington has presented his program to over 600 first responders in 2013.  If you are interested in hosting a program contact  Ryan33@suddenlink.net  Make sure to watch the presentation page for upcoming dates of presentations
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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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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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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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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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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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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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