Hoarder Fires Training Featured

New Firefighter Training – West Virginia’s Eyewitness News.


Ryan Pennington is a firefighter in Charleston and trains fellow firefighters on how to handle fires at hoarding house.

Hoarding stories have become a sensation on television, but it’s anything but that for firefighters when tragedy strikes.

The typical hoarding house creates several obstacles for the firefighters to overcome.

“These folks have got their houses so full of stuff, they don’t use their front doors anymore,” said Pennington, “So that means we can’t get in nor can they get out.”

Chief Stephen Parsons of the St. Albans Fire Department has been to a few hoarding fires himself.

“When you to go in and you’re trying to stretch a hose line to extinguish the fire, it’s hard to maneuver through all that debris,” said Parsons, “You’re typical crawling and you’ve got boxes stacked up to 8 feet ceilings and those boxes fall over, now your pathway is blocked.”

St. Albans Fire Department responded to a hoarding fire earlier this month.

The flames were contained and the damage was minimal in comparison of how things could have gone. And luckily no one was injured.

That’s something Parsons credits to the knowledge of the firefighters.

“Anybody who recognizes this as a dangerous fire, or course, the first in crew will announce, you know, ‘This is a hoarder house.’ So everybody knows we’re operating at a little more heighten dangerous situation. Like firefighting isn’t dangerous enough, now you add that on top of it.”

And Pennington says it’s no just the debris that makes things dangerous, but what it’s made of..

“We went from having normal household products made of like solid wood, oak, cotton, to now everything is manufactured out of plastics. What happens is it burns hotter. It burns faster. It produces a more toxic smoke and produces challenges for firefighters that they need to adjust for. And in a hoarding situation you take the contents of this room and quadruple it.”

Dangers aside, Pennington knows all he can do is provide the training for fellow firefighters to insure everyone’s safety.

He knows the situation is the fault of no one.

“Just we need to realize is this is a psychological disorder,” said Pennington, “This is not a choice.”