Fire Risks of Hoarding
When people think of hoarding, the increased risk of a fire is usually not the first issue that comes to mind. However, the clutter buildup that results from hoarding behaviors drastically increases the risk of fires in the following ways:
- A buildup of flammable items near the stove or oven can cause a fire.
- Clutter buildup near heating units can catch fire, especially if a heating unit tips over into the clutter.
- The clutter buildup could damage electrical wires or invite pests that chew on wiring.
- Burning candles in a cluttered home is a major fire risk.
- The clutter can block exits in a home which is extremely dangerous if there is a fire.
The other issue to consider is how the clutter in a hoarder’s home will affect first responders in the event of a fire. Firefighters may face the following obstacles:
- Clutter can restrict access through the home which may impede their ability to get to a fire.
- Blocked exits may trap them in the home.
- Falling objects can cause injury.
- The home is more likely to collapse under the weight of the clutter which can trap or seriously injure firefighters.
- The clutter makes rescuing people and pets much more difficult and dangerous.
Fire Safety Tips for a Hoarder’s Home
People affected by hoarding do not often reach out for help on their own. If you know someone who hoards, the following tips can help you help the individual avoid injury in case of a fire:
- Discuss personal safety with the individual and try to avoid talking about the clutter. Make sure you show empathy for the individual and do not call it hoarding unless they do first.
- Assist the individual in coming up with a fire escape plan and practice it. Help them understand that they need to keep clear paths to the exits of the home at all times.
- Make sure the home has working smoke detectors and test them often.
- Talk to the local firefighters to discuss your concerns about the affected individual. They can probably also refer you to other community resources that can help.
The clutter created by hoarding behaviors is dangerous in so many ways. The increased risk of a fire is one of the biggest dangers of hoarding because a fire can cause immense damage in a cluttered home and put the lives of those within in jeopardy. It is best to hire a professional to provide hoarding cleanup services but if the individual is not ready for that, discussing these fire safety tips can help lower the risk of injury. If a fire does occur in the home of a hoarder, professionals that provide fire damage restoration can help restore the damage caused by the fire and clear out materials that have been destroyed.