Sunday, July 19, 2009

Firefighters urge people not to hoard items

ALMOST one in four people killed in house fires in Melbourne since 2000 crammed their homes by hoarding items, new figures show.

The hoarders were unwittingly putting their lives and property at increased risk during home fires, said the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB), Country Fire Authority (CFA) and RACV Insurance in a statement.

Most of the hoarders were aged over 50.

There was a spate of blazes last month involving people who had hoarded hundreds or thousands of items into their houses.

In one case, on June 25, a man in his 60s died when a fire broke out in his Ascot Vale home and he became trapped because the house was crammed with boxes and piles of rubbish blocking movement.

Firefighters had trouble finding his body under piles of rubbish in the house.

MFB community ageing strategist Julie Harris said hoarded material such as clothing and newspapers were potential sources of ignition and made it difficult for occupants to escape.

"While an average house fire requires about seven firefighters, a fire in a hoarding household requires about 17 firefighters to do the job," she said.

"In addition, the damage bill increases from $12,500 to $100,000 on average."

The hoarding households risked neighbours and firefighters' safety and hoarders often suffered health, safety and welfare problems, the MFB said..."  More