Hoarder News Interview



 

Check out this news interview with Ryan Pennington from ChamberofHoarders.com.  WCHS TV stopped by to interview him during his presentation of Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for firefighters.  Check out this Hoarder News Story
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Lansing Michigan "Cluttered Fire"



LANSING — A wind chill well below zero and a fire consuming a house so filled with belongings that firefighters could not safely enter it culminated in a headache for Lansing firefighters Tuesday morning.

Crews were called to a two-story house shortly before 9 a.m. in the 800 block of North Pine Street, on the northwest corner of Pine and Madison Streets, for a fire officials believe started in the kitchen.

However, crews quickly decided it was safer to stay outside the home to battle the blaze due to “a large number of belongings” throughout the home, said Lansing Fire Department Public Information Officer Eric Weber.

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Worst Animal Hoarding Fire

WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather

 

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - We have an update on what McKamey Animal Center has called the worst animal hoarding fire this area has ever had.


Dozens of cats died when an East Brainerd home burned Saturday.


Chattanooga firefighters say piles of clutter made getting to the fire a challenge in a house filled with at least 50 cats. They also say fecal matter covered the home. Now McKamey Animal Center is investigating to determine if animal abuse and neglect charges will be filed.


A family of four rent the Elaine Trail home in East Brainerd. The husband, wife and two sons escaped the fire unharmed, but dozens of their cats didn't.


"The majority of the cats died in the fire. We now have 17 survivors," McKamey Animal Center Director Karen Walsh said.


Those surviving cats are now quarantined at McKamey Animal Center undergoing treatment. Many are singed, shaking, and in shock after firefighters pulled them out from piles of clutter inside the burning home.


"Suffered from heat and from soot and some of them from the water. Some of them got singed. A few were burned, but they were also breathing in that smoke as well," Walsh said.


The Chattanooga Fire Department ruled the fire accidental, possibly electrical, but animal control is doing it's own investigation for animal abuse and neglect.


"Sometimes these cases aren't prosecutable. They're more of someone who needs help," Walsh said.


In Chattanooga, you're required special permits if you have more than seven cats. This family did not have those permits. Walsh says it's impossible to take care of 50 cats and that the fecal matter throughout the home likely played a role in the fire spreading so quickly.


Story from Wrcbtv.com


 
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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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Ryan33@suddenlink.net


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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.

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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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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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3 Things Your Fire Department Should do about Hoarding

Since the beginning of my research into responses in hoarding environments, one question

[caption id="attachment_152" align="alignleft" width="158"]Hoarder FIre Hoarder FIre


continually comes up.   What are the most important things my department should do if we are faced with a hoarding condition?  Great question, there are many things that need to change when faced with responses in “heavy content” environments.  Let us take a few moments to review three things that your department should do if you suspect or discover a hoarding conditions in your response area.

Identify potential conditions: 

Identification of hoarding is the first step in making a safer environment.  If you suspect or discover a hoarding environment, spread the word to all members of your department.  Flag the structure with the dispatch center as a “heavy content” structure and begin the preplan process.



Pre planning for Hoarder Response:

  • Identify the level of content 1-5

  • establishing likely living spaces

  • estimating structural compromise

  • identifying blocked windows and doors

  • Determine needed water flow if the house was to become “fully involved”


Many of these steps can be accomplished from the exterior and some may need to be from the interior.  The best time to allow for access to the interior is in the event of a medical emergency.  Once patient care is complete take time to look around or observe while entering to identify the dangers.

Prepare for the inevitable:

Once you have identified a Heavy Content building in your area the preparation for a fire needs to begin.  By preparing your department’s pre-fire plan and reviewing response changes with your personnel.  Just like any pre-planned business or multi-family dwelling, you should review and adjust your plan twice a year.  The heavy content environment can change on a monthly basis as the hoarder collects more belongings, the structure experiences more degradation, and access points become hard to access.

A study from the Melbourne Australia Fire Department and the Wooster Polytechnic Institute showed that only 26% of hoarder houses had working smoke alarms and most fires started as cooking fires.  This means that the likelihood of a fire happening are increased due to the amount of fire hazard present inside these environments, so be prepared.

 Protect your Members

Now that you have identified and prepared the members of your department it is time to offer them some advice to help keep them safe.

Let us review some tips to prepare them:

  • Use your PPE

  • Order additional resources if dispatched to a heavy content address

  • Use the risk/reward mentality in deciding if interior is an option

  • Don’t be afraid to keep the firefighters out of the building


Dealing with responses in hoarding conditions is a complicated situation that requires tactical changes.  These quick tips will start you down the road to a successful operation.  Protecting our responders is job one on any scene, on a  hoarding scene it should stand out even further as the dangers are increased.
Take a moment to review these three tips with your department to start the process of Expecting Hoarding.  With the number of people affected by this disorder growing, the chances that you will be faced with them grow as well.  We all should stand ready to take on this disorder and help the folks that are afflicted.  But even more we should prepare our first responders to make sure we all go home……..

 
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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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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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Hoarding Fire in Indianapolis


Hoarding conditions found at house fire

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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.

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