Hoarding; a lethal fire risk
What is ‘hoarding’?
- Hoarding is a large accumulation of possessions which appear to have no apparent use or value
- It results in rooms no longer being able to be used for the purpose they were intended
- Hoarding is a progressive and chronic condition
People affected by hoarding may also experience a high level of isolation and reject offers of assistance as they fear this will result in removal of their possessions.
People who hoard do so for a variety of different reasons. The effects of hoarding can be apparent inside, outside the house or a combination of both.
Commonly hoarded items include personal papers, newspapers, clothing, furniture, appliances, household rubbish, animals and hard rubbish.
The fire risks
Fires in hoarding homes increase risk for the occupant, their neighbours and firefighters. MFB research has identified that people who hoard aged 50+ are at particular risk and account for 24% of all preventable fire deaths between 1999 and 2009
Hoarding increases the risk of fire because:
- Accumulation of possessions results in an abnormally high fuel load and greater opportunity for ignition
- Blocked exits and narrow internal pathways impede escape for the occupant and access for firefighters
- Non functional gas or electricity may result in unsafe practices for cooking and heating
MFB recommends that in the first instance, individuals or agencies assisting those affected by hoarding should:
- Install smoke alarms and test them
- Unblock exits
- Widen internal pathways
- Check utilities are connected
- Prioritise removing clutter from around cooking area and stove tops as 39% of fires in hoarding homes result from cooking
- Ensure clutter is removed from around heaters and electrical items and discourage the use of open flame as combined these factors account for 44 % of fires in hoarding homes
For further general information please contact the Community Resilience Department on (03) 9665 4464 or email@example.com
Information on general fire safety can be found at www.mfb.vic.gov.au and more specifically home fire safety at www.homefiresafety.com.au