Hoarding 2: Community Impact

Paper 8: Hoarding - A Fire Services Perspective

Julie Harris, Community Ageing Strategist, Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board VIC and Melanie Rabane, Senior Firefighter, Community Safety Coordinator, NSW Fire Brigades

People affected by hoarding behaviour experience a range of well-being, health and safety issues. Of these, fire represents a significant risk not only to people who live in these households but their neighbours and responding firefighters.

Post fire incident analysis has identified that hoarding behaviour increases the chance of fire occurring due to the accumulation of combustible materials. In the event of a fire these items result in a much higher fuel load that feeds the fire. Narrow internal pathways and blocked exits not only reduce the opportunity for the occupant to self evacuate but also severely comprise access for firefighters to facilitate rescue and attack the fire.

This joint fire services presentation by MFB and NSWFB will outline hoarding from an emergency response and post incident analysis perspective. It will include case studies of hoarding related fire incidents and the impact of hoarding in relation to ignition, evacuation and firefighting.

It will also feature results from the world first study of hoarding related fire incidents and fatalities conducted by MFB. Covering a period of ten years the study provides demographic information including, age, sex, property ownership and location. Key comparisons between other fires and hoarding related fires and fatalities in relation to resource allocation and costs related to damage.

The presentation will outline current pilots being developed between fire services and community based agencies in response to the high fire risk of this group. Additionally it will identify actions community based agencies can take to minimise fire risk whilst seeking long-term solutions to working with people affected by this chronic and progressive condition.