Lessons From a Hoarder Near Miss

Near miss are words that none of us ever want to hear, or worse, experience.

When Billy G posted the story of a Capt with a miss at a Hoarder house fire it really hit home as my research continues.  The story can be found Here.  I would like to take a few minutes and review some key points within the story.

“We had responded to the residence of a hoarder. The fire load and lack of housekeeping in a hoarders house causes unique problems for firefighting operations . several problems that exist in a hoarders house will be relayed in this article in regards to our close call. A fire attack crew was ordered through the front door to locate the fire. As Firefighters were trying to force the front door, the home owner reported to command that it would be better if they used the side door, I never use the front door. The front door broke open near the door handle. The bottom half of the door was only pushed in a few inches before it was blocked by stuff. The top half was forced all the way in and the attack crew began to climb over the debris. The entire house was piled with stuff ranging from about 4 feet deep all the way to the ceiling. The Captain with 25 years experience was on the nozzle as his firefighter volunteered to feed hose as they made their way through the living room. The Captain advanced over the crest of a pile toward the kitchen. With a lurch of the hose from his firefighter he fell forward in the unstable pile knocking the regulator out of his mask. He took in a breath of the hot poisonous gas that filled the room.”

This is a key point quote from the report that should be on the forefront of everyone mind. “Hidden Hoarder” can be found in any neighborhood behind any door.  Looking for the ques and clues that suggest hoarding conditions are there, if you can recognize them.  Listening to the occupant is a KEY resource for determining best point of entry.  In hoarding conditions this is even more important as the doorways  windows, and hallways will become packed tighter as the accumulations of belongings continue.  Often we train our firefighter to grab a line at hit the front door.  In hoarding conditions a deviation will be needed as the rooms have been filled beyond their intended purpose.

Second key point here is: Should you Crawl over Hoarder Piles?

People who hoard can collect everything from newspapers to car parts.  If you add the weight of an average firefighter to the tops of these piles you could be asking for disaster.  Glass within the piles could break, the weight could shift sending you falling into a pile of entanglement hazards, or you could cover up victims that you are searching for.  Making the decision to crawl over a hoarded pile of debris should be made with safety first mentality.  If the piles are above waist level, this may not be our fight to win!  We might need to….beep…beeep…beeep…Back the truck up!

thanks for the visit to the jumpseat!