Hoarding conditions complicate house fire in Scottsdale

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Erika Flores

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 8:26 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 10:14 AM

Map: Scottsdale and McKellips roads

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hoarding conditions made firefighters' jobs difficult as they battled a house fire in Scottsdale Tuesday morning.

Crews from Scottsdale and Tempe responded to a home on Fillmore Street, which is just north of Scottsdale and McKellips roads, shortly after 6 a.m. Neighbors said flames were shooting from the roof. Smoke was visible for miles

The first order of business was to make sure nobody was inside the burning house. Firefighters said the home was packed with stuff and that those hoarding conditions hindered their operation.

Crews said it does not look like anybody is living in the house. They evacuated neighboring homes as a precaution.

At this point, it's not clear exactly where or how the fire started. Investigators are trying to find the owner of the house.

While no firefighters were injured in Tuesday morning's incident, hoarding fires present a unique set of challenges and dangers to crews.

"Many fire departments are experiencing serious fires, injuries, and deaths as the result of compulsive hoarding behavior," according to the National Fire Protection Association. "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.

"Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home," the NFPA website reads. "In addition, many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them. Responding firefighters can be put at risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult."

Hoarding is a mental illness defined in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless and have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces," according to the American Psychiatric Association. "Potential consequences of serious hoarding include health and safety concerns, such as fire hazards, tripping hazards, and health code violations."

According to APA, between 2 percent and 5 percent of the population suffers from hoarding disorder.

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