Hoarder Fires

inside_a_hoarders_640_12Have you watched an episode of that TV program, “Hoarders”?  These situations create very hazardous conditions for the people who live there which includes the potential for a fire.  If there is a fire, the responding firefighters are also endangered by these conditions.   These extreme “collectors” pile things, papers, magazines, furniture, clothing, food, in high stacks that create a literal maze with narrow walkways.  Often the hoarders are older folks suffering from a mental disorder.  When a fire occurs search and rescue becomes much more difficult because the victims can be overcome by smoke and fumes before they can get out, so they must be rescued and carried out through the mess in very dangerous conditions.   Unlike commercial buildings where businesses must undergo periodic fire inspections, residences have no inspection requirements so these conditions can go unseen for many years.  When firefighters respond to a home, they can’t know what to expect at a home occupied by a hoarder.

Firefighters and their command officers anticipate the “fuel load” of a house meaning what couches, beds and other furnishings do under fire conditions.  Today’s furnishings and building materials have increased the danger to firefighters because more of the materials have a petroleum base and that increases the speed and heat released by the fire.  When the home as 3 or 4 times the amount of normal furnishings, there is a radical increase in the danger and completely changes the conditions firefighters must face in extinguishing the fire.  Windows and exits can be blocked and long burn times increase the potential for building collapse.

If you or someone in your life is a hoarder, don’t ignore the problem.  Click here for some information that may help.




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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.