Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hoarding increases fire-fatality risk - study


Hoarders may be more at risk of dying if a fire breaks out in their house, a study has found.

Paula Beever, director of Fire Risk Management for the New Zealand Fire Service, said hoarding was a growing problem, and typically involved elderly men.

A recent Australian study has looked at hoarding from a fire-risk perspective and examined 10 years of Melbourne fire data and identified 48 hoarding fire incidents.

These accounted for 0.25 per cent of all residential fires in that period but made up 24 per cent of preventable fire fatalities.

Fires in hoarders' premises used more firefighting resources than the average residential fires, Beever said.

"There are often narrow internal pathways and blocked exits which make it difficult for people to get out and also make it hard for firefighters to get in to rescue them and attack the fire."

One in four people killed in accidental house fires in Melbourne since 2000 had been a "compulsive hoarder", the study found.

Christchurch area commander Dan Coward said hoarding could be a factor in 50 to 100 house fires each year in Canterbury – about 2 per cent of house fires.

Hoarding was a factor in five out of 282 accidental house fire fatalities between July 1995 and December 2008, he said..." More