America the Messy Yard Police State

Hoarding called a safety hazard to Valley firefighters

  Government rulers think you should run your life to make life easy for them? What's next will they pass a law making hoarding illegal because it MIGHT be a danger to firefighters? How come these jerks call them selves "public servants"?


Hoarding called a safety hazard to Valley firefighters

Cluttered homes can worsen battle vs. blaze

by Allison Oswalt - Mar. 24, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team

An explosive house fire that injured two Tempe firefighters last week was the third hoarding-involved fire in the past six months, prompting Valley fire officials to examine how they deal with the problem.

The most recent incident involved a home that was stuffed floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes and furniture. The fire started after the residents left a backyard barbecue unattended.

"Hoarding is something that we are seeing more and more frequently," said Martha Faleow, a Tempe crisis-intervention specialist. "We have several Tempe residents who we are trying to assist, but the problem is increasing."

Faleow works with Care 7, a Tempe crisis-response unit that is dispatched to every major incident with both police and fire officials to focus on the individuals.

Faleow said hoarding goes beyond regular collecting or clutter that can accumulate in a home and it can negatively affect health as well as be an endangerment.

"Firefighters don't know what they are walking into already," she said. "It adds an element of surprise to an already difficult situation."

Tempe fire Capt. Mike Kuehl and his crew at Station 273 worked to battle Friday's blaze, which destroyed the home at College Avenue and Minton Drive.

Going in, Kuehl said, he had a feeling it wasn't going to stay first-alarm very long.

As he prepared to break through the front of the house, he saw stacks of boxes both inside and outside the main entryway.

Kuehl was putting his mask on when an explosion rocked the home, forcing him to dodge smoking debris and rocks.

"I've never been shot with a shotgun, but it felt like getting pelted with a bunch of rocks or BBs on the side of your head," he said.

The explosion blew apart the east and west walls of the home, making it a total loss.

Firefighters attributed the explosion to the amount of combustible material found in the backyard as well as inside the home.

Kuehl suffered second-degree burns on his face, ear and hand. Another firefighter, Brandon Coker, hurt his knee.

Homes that are packed with large amounts of paper, boxes, trash and other raw materials make it difficult for firefighters to get inside and take care of the fire. The bulky gear they wear also can get caught on debris.

The residents of the Tempe home had a furniture-building business and were selling items from their house. The backyard and inside rooms had been packed with furniture after the residents could no longer afford to store it.

Officials cannot cite residents for excess clutter on private property unless it is in the front yard or is directly affecting neighbors, Tempe Fire spokesman Mike Reichling said.

Frank Salomon, deputy chief of public affairs for the Phoenix Fire Department, said he remembers a hoarding incident several years ago where a four-bedroom home and garage were packed floor to ceiling with newspapers, textiles and other materials.

"One part of the ceiling had been ripped off and exposed to add more room," he said. "There was even a fiberglass boat chained up to the rafters."

Salomon said that in such cases, firefighters could easily come across flammable liquids, plastics and other dangerous materials without realizing it.

Salomon said firefighters often find extreme hoarding conditions during medical calls.

"Firefighters that work in that area will know that home, but if you are dispatched to a house fire at 2 a.m., you don't know what you are going to encounter," he said.

Several organizations and programs have been created already to combat the problem.

The Arizona Hoarding Task Force was created to aid in the prevention and rehabilitation of the complex behavioral disorder known as residential hording.

Along with creating resources to help hoarders and their families, the organization sets up hoarding conferences in the state.

Other groups that have been established to deal with this increasing trend include Arizona Children of Hoarders Support Group and Animal Hoarding.

"The issue of hoarding is not just a Tempe problem, but also Maricopa County and the entire state," Reichling said.


America the Messy Yard Police State