Fire Hazards and Dangers of Hoarding
Hoarding can be a fire hazard. Hoarding is defined as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of said items. Saving an excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value.” Staggering amounts of items crowd the space and prevents regular use and navigation. Hoarding can lead to a serious fire risk in the home. There are 5 levels of hoarding level 1 being the least severe to the 5th being most severe. Your risks of fire, water, and mold damage will start to increase starting at level 2.
How Hoarding Increases Fire Risks:
- Cooking is unsafe if flammable items are close to the stove or oven.
- If you have a movable heating unit, make sure to not put on an unstable surface. If the heater tips over into a pile, it can cause a fire.
- Space heaters and baseboard heaters can ignite nearby materials if placed against or within 3ft front or to the side.
- Electrical wiring may be old or worn from the weight of piles.
- Pests that may have accumulated can chew on wires, and damaged wires can start fires.
- Exits may be hard to get to, or completely cut off by accumulated items.
- Those living adjacent to an occupied structure can be quickly affected when a fire occurs, due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.
- Open flames from smoking materials or candles in a home with excess clutter are no recommended and are VERY dangerous. Do not put an open flame on an unstable surface and/or near excess clutter.
Why Hoarding Affects First Responders:
- Firefighters cannot effectively fight the fire or evacuate inhabitants or animals when hindered by clutter.
- First responders can become trapped, as well as hurt by piles of items that may topple over.
- When hoarded items become waterlogged by firefighting efforts, their weight is dramatically increased. This can lead to structural collapse if enough items are present.
- Hoarding can be a fire hazard.
- Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home.
- Many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them. When fighting fires in a hoarding home it is hard to provide medical care. The clutter stops the search and rescue of people and pets.
How you can help reduce the risk of fire and injury:
- When talking to a person who hoards, focus on safety rather than the accumulation of clutter. Be empathetic and understanding. Consider your body language and how you speak. You should match the person’s language. If they call it hoarding, then you can call it hoarding.
- Help the residents make a home safety and escape plan. Stress the importance of clearing any pathways and exits. Walk through the plan often as to make sure that it is still clear as to new items may come into the home after you have made the route.
- Install working smoke alarms in the home. Test them at least once a month.
- Reach out to your local community resources. Talk to members of the fire department to let them know of your concerns. They may be able to connect you with members of a hoarding task force for additional help.
To have a better understanding of hoarding there is multiple resources. Take some time to learn an evaluate each situation. These are just preventive measures to take, and why you should be taking them. SERVPRO of Kirkland has experience with cluttered cleaning homes. If you or someone you know needs this level of professional cleaning, give us a call today (425) 820-0080. We provide a judgment-free and thorough cleaning of any space.