While many people are aware that hoarding is a troublesome condition, what they may not know is how hoarding leads to fire. Fires have the potential to be much larger, and grow much more quickly in a hoarder’s home than in an average house fire, because the large collection means there are much more objects subject to ignite and burn when a fire starts. The amount of work that a firefighter has to do to confront and extinguish a fire in a hoarder’s home is also much larger, and the complications could be life threatening. For this reason, prevention is anyone’s best bet. Understanding how hoarding leads to fire and learning how to identify the signs can be lifesaving.
A fire needs three things to ignite: fuel, heat, and oxygen. If there is one thing a hoarder has plenty of, its fuel for a fire. Such a large collection is exactly how hoarding leads to fire. Different hoarding conditions cause people to hoard different things. Some hoarders collect clothing, mail, or even garage, all of which can go up in flames very easily. In the case of trash hoarders, flammable liquids such as oils, non-dairy creamers, and even leaking orange juice, are not uncommon. One spark from malfunctioning electronics, another commonly found issue with hoarders, and the collection can begin to smolder.
Because of the large collection that a hoarder can amass, the smoldering can continue for a long time before anyone notices. Fortunately, the hoarding also tends to create a poorly ventilated area that lacks airflow, so the smoldering may not ignite right away and can be safely extinguished. However, if a window is cracked, a door is opened, or a central heating or cooling system is activated, the oxygen needed to ignite the already oversized smoldering becomes available, and the hoarding fire can grow out of control very rapidly. If this were to occur, even a well trained firefighting team who is trained in how hoarding leads to fires and what to do may have trouble keeping the fire controlled. It is a scary thought, but it is exactly why a hoarding intervention is so important.
The unfortunate side effect of hoarding fires is that the largely compiled heap can prevent people from exiting the home or being discovered by a rescuer in time. Knowing how hoarding leads to fires could be the difference between saving a life and a tragedy. Learn how to identify the signs of hoarding, and talk to your friend or loved one about getting help, and the dangers of hoarding fires. If clutter is accumulating in massive amounts in the home, garage, or front yard, it may be time to call in a professional and discuss options for hoarding cleanup and recovery. Although hoarding cleanup and intervention can be a stressful and challenging task, ultimately it can prevent a fatal catastrophe.