Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hoarding Makes Firefighting More Difficult

As if firefighting isn’t difficult enough, the results of hoarding are making it even more difficult for firefighters to do their jobs effectively and efficiently as possible. In an article from The Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes that hoarding is not only making house fires much more dangerous, it is putting firefighters and residents at even more risk of being harmed. “Earlier this month, an Ohio firefighter was hurt in a fire where hoarding was so sever that firefighters couldn’t enter part of the house,” she reports.

Firefighters already have to deal with difficult conditions such as dense smoke, total darkness and limited air supply. Hoarding adds to the difficulty by creating “maze-like conditions” throughout the structure. Clutter blocks exits, safe passage ways and can trip up residents (and firefighters) when trying to escape. In addition, paper and other flammable objects act like kindling, which intensifies a fire.

According to the article, hoarding “is a psychological ailment that was once considered to be similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder, but is now a distinct diagnosis.” The article goes on to say that, “Among the condition’s many devastating mental and physical consequences is that it can make the sufferer more likely to die in a fire.”

In the author’s research, she found that the firefighters she interviewed said they see hoarding conditions in about 25% of the homes they enter. This could possibly be connected to the aging U.S. population, as hoarding is more common among the elderly. Or, another reason could simply be because people have more “stuff.”

To help the hoarding problem, some firefighters have joined hoarding task forces in local communities to help clean up hoarders’ homes, as well as training to fight fires in these conditions.