Firefighters looking for hoarder home help

12:45 AM, Feb 4, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND-- Hoarders are endangering their own lives as well as safety services when called.

At the training academy they'll tell you basic fire fighting hasn't changed in 100 years. It's a lot of crawling and feeling your way in the heat and smoke to find the flames and those trapped.

That process becomes exponentially more dangerous for victims and firefighters in hoarder homes.

Perhaps you've seen the piles in hoarder houses. So much stuff you can barely get around. Such obstructions are a house of horrors for firefighters.

"You are under a lot of panic stricken seconds in determining how we should attack this fire so it won't take off.  How to protect your personnel and how to get to the person in there," Fire Department Spokesman Larry Gray said.

Just last Wednesday Cleveland firefighters were under that very pressure at this inferno burning on West 83rd Street.

We showed Fireman Larry Gray our video tape. He showed us the difficulties of fighting fire in a hoarder house.

The 80 plus year old home owner's possessions blocked the first floor entry. Firefighters climbed ladders outside the house to get to the flames. They lost precious minutes while the fire grew.

"It's going to be hotter in there quicker and your visibility is going to be diminished 10 times faster, " Gray said.

Firefighters were desperately searching for the owner inside although it turned out she was shopping. Good thing, at one point the squad had to abandon the blaze.

The interest in hoarders peaked after the cable show became popular. The dangers of fighting fires in such homes are not new. It is an issue the department is now attacking through prevention.

"It's a delicate matter. You have to get the right people to investigate and assist them in that process," Gray said.

The fire department will use its community risk reduction program to identify problem homes and educate the owners.

While there are no city-wide inspection requirements for private homes, firefighters can spot problems through its smoke detector giveaways. You can help if you see a problem home in your neighborhood.


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