We all keep things we don’t really need. Some of us have more possessions than we have storage for. But hoarding is a complex issue that goes far beyond untidiness or indecisiveness.
Hoarders can fill entire rooms from floor to ceiling, leaving themselves the minimum space in which to live. This retention of property presents a real fire risk, and makes it far harder for firefighters to be able to tackle any blaze.
The Fire and Rescue Service can’t solve the problem of hoarding; however, where we know there is an issue, we can work with other agencies to try and reduce the risk of fire.
Evidence from across the country shows that:
- In 90% of all residential fires, the fire itself is contained to the room where it started. However, that figure drops to 40% where there is hoarding – as this additional material fuels the fire and makes it spread more quickly.
- When there is a fire in a hoarder’s home, there is a far greater risk that the individual and/or family members will find it difficult or impossible to escape.
- Common materials kept by hoarders include newspapers, magazines, books and soft furnishings – all of which are highly combustible.
- The presence of vast amounts of hoarded material creates a risk to firefighters, both in getting to the fire and through increased heat and smoke.
By offering Safe and Well visits, and installing smoke alarms, we can work with hoarders to try and make their homes more fire safe. If they want help in dealing with their hoarding compulsion, then we can refer them to other agencies for that support. However, we know that not every hoarder is ready to take that step and we want to ensure that they are as fire safe as possible, whatever the circumstances of their home.