Two short weeks ago in Gainesville, Georgia, a woman died of smoke inhalation when her apartment caught on fire. With all the items she’d hoarded piled nearly to the ceiling, the firemen found it difficult to enter the space and look for the woman trapped inside. By the time they were able to find their way through, the woman had passed away.
When a person has a difficult time discarding objects due to a perceived need to save them regardless of their value, it is called “hoarding.” Hoarded homes are often filled to bursting with various possessions and materials and thus pose a huge fire risk to themselves and their neighbors.
Hoarding raises the risk of fire
At the apartment in Gainesville, the amount of items the firemen had to find their way over and through took precious time out of their ability to get through the space, fight the fire, and rescue the woman. Even a few seconds can make the difference between life and death and unfortunately, this woman didn’t make it out.
In addition to the amount of items which can catch fire in a hoarded home, additional fire issues include:
- Difficult to navigate: When items are piled and stacked up in rooms, often making those spaces unusable, any existing paths through the home are precarious at best and easily toppled. These blocked paths can not only cause injury but also make it difficult to get out of the home. Even paths easy to negotiate in the light quickly become impossible in dark smoke and flames.
- Weakened structure: If items have been stored for a long period of time, the weight may have damaged the structure thus making it more prone to collapse in the event of a fire. Pests and insects, also, may have destroyed some of the supports making it dangerous for both those trying to get inside and those trying to get out.
- Electrical issues: With items stacked and piled against electric appliances and outlets, electrical issues can occur without anyone being aware of them or people are unable to fix the problems when they do occur.
- Flammable objects: When a space does catch fire, it can burn extra hot due to flammable objects among the hoard or may smolder for long periods of time due to lack of oxygen.
Get the help you need before a fire starts
If you or a loved one have hoarding tendencies, getting the help you need now before there is a fire in the home can save a life. The family of the woman who died along with Adult Protective Services had been working with her and giving her time to clean the home when the fire broke out.
Using a company such as Georgia Clean is a fast solution to cleaning out a hoarded home. If you are concerned about dangers such as pests, combustible items, mold, or other biohazards among all the possessions, then it is important to have professionals who understand these dangers and how to protect themselves while digging through the items and cleaning them out. Well-trained in what to keep and search out, they can complete the task quickly and clean the entire area afterward so you and your loved ones are safe.
Personal Safety is the number one priority
If you know of someone affected by hoarding, it’s important to help them understand the dangers of fire and the importance of personal safety. There are also agencies you can call who can help you find the resources you need. In the meantime, there are several precautionary steps you can take:
- Minimize household clutter
- Maintain open escape routes
- Ensure electrical and plumbing systems are kept in good repair
- Make sure all smoke detectors are working
- If there is a fire, let the firemen know about the hoard in the house as this will change their tactics in how to fight the fire
It’s a tragic event when anyone dies in a fire but with precautionary steps, cleaning out existing hoards, and finding the help needed, we can prevent this from happening to ourselves and those we love.