NFPA Guide, Journal Focus on Hoarding's Fire Hazards

Stephanie Schorow's cover story recounts a September 2010 fire inside one crammed apartment in a 30-story Toronto building with 1,200 residents. Hoarding Task Forces are being created all around the country, according to NFPA.

The A&E TV show "Hoarders," now in its sixth season, has made many Americans familiar with the people who compulsively collect things, often ordinary and even unsanitary items. The show's website notes extreme hoarding is a mental disorder that may be connected to divorce, eviction, or loss of a child. Hoarding also results in sometimes extreme fire hazards, the National Fire Protection Association notes in a new, free guide and in the cover story of the NFPA Journal's January/February 2012 issue, available online.

The article's author, Stephanie Schorow, recounts the story of a Sept. 24, 2010, fire inside one crammed apartment in a 30-story Toronto building with 1,200 residents. Three hundred firefighters were on scene, working more than seven hours to extinguish the fire. After the all-clear was sounded and firefighters went door to door to search the building, they found 14 more apartments packed with the residents' possessions, she writes in "The Dangers of Too Much Stuff."

NFPA reports the fire service and other first responders are now teaming with mental health providers, faith-based organizations, public health organizations, and others to address this issue. Hoarding Task Forces with such representatives are being created all around the country, according to NFPA, which reports many fire departments "are experiencing serious fires, injuries, and deaths as the result of compulsive hoarding behavior. The excessive accumulation of materials in homes poses a significant threat to firefighters fighting fires and responding to other emergencies in these homes and to residents and neighbors."

Studies suggest between 3 and 5 percent of the population are compulsive hoarders, NFPA notes. Its guide explains what the fire service can do when it learns of a hoarding situation, how to talk with someone about hoarding, and the risks hoarding presents to responders.

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