VIDEO: Michael A. Tompkins, Ph.D
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Several Valley agencies report a rise in the number of hoarders.
In the last year, firefighters and other first responders have found people hoarding animals, dolls, beer cans and general junk.
"We had one fire where the people had been saving cereal boxes, stacking them, and making mazes with them," said Tempe fire Capt. Aaron Novack.
The clutter combined with smoke creates dangerous situations for firefighters. Two were injured in a Tempe fire in March 2011.
"That was the start of our department getting more aggressive," Novack said.
Fire investigator Mike Reichling said the Tempe Fire Department launched a training program. It involved a hoarding simulator at the fire training center. Other agencies have joined in to give firefighters more experience in a confined, cramped environment.
"They couldn't believe how difficult it was to get through there with their gear plus the hose line," Reichling said.
Tempe also has a crew with its Care-7 Crisis Response Team scouting for hoarders and responding to tips from the community.
"You just try to bond with the person, not judge them, and offer advice and services," said Care-7's Martha Williams.
Williams and Reichling will join other local and national panelists at the second Hoarding Conference in Scottsdale Thursday.
The Jewish Family & Children's Service worked with the Arizona Hoarding Task Force to present the conference. Speakers include Dr. Michael Tompkins, who specializes in treatment of hoarding.
Register for the conference online at www.jfcsaz.org.