Warren firefighter says hoarding makes their jobs more difficult

Hoarding makes an already life-threatening task much harder for firefighters

Firefighters say hoarding makes fighting fires more difficult.

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Cincinnati couple died in a house fire due to what fire officials are calling a “hoarding situation.” 

Crews say the fire was small — they were able to get the flames out in less than five minutes. But it was the smoldering smoke that made it challenging for the department to save the victims.

Firefighters say there was so much smoke inside the home because the homeowners had so many belongings.

Warren Fire Captain Mark Thigpen said his department calls those situations a heavy-content fire. It’s not your typical house fire in which you have an open window or door where you can run a hose into the home.

The house is filled with so much stuff firefighters sometimes can’t even enter.

Thigpen said some cases are so bad, with only one path way from the front door to the bedroom or the bathroom.

“It’s very difficult to advance a hose line. You have to raise your hands up to see how high the boxes go up, and those boxes may fall on you. It’s a very, very challenging environment, to say the least,” he said.

It makes an already life-threatening task much harder for firefighters.

Most of the time, crews don’t know what they’re getting into until they get to the home. They can see clues when they get there, however.

“If you see a lot of overgrown shrubbery or a lot of stuff in the backyard, a lot of heavy content in the backyard or if their personal vehicle is overflown with heavy contents,” Thigpen said.

Chances are the home will be the same way.

Hoarding used to be considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but now, it has its own diagnosis.

“It affects 3 to 5 percent of the population. Not a lot of our clients come in and admit to hoarding. It’s more the family calling in with their concerns,” said Nikki Villella.

Villella is a licensed counselor at Coleman Professional Services in Warren. She has many patients who are hoarders — keeping things like newspapers, magazines and plastic bags.

“I think they fear that they might have value in the future or that they might need it in the future, so they fear of getting rid of it and not being there is the problem,” she said.

Villella said a good way to know if someone is keeping too much stuff is if they are holding onto things that might not be worth a lot.

In Mahoning County, hoarding has become such a major problem that a coalition has been formed to tackle the issue.

Those who want help with a hoarding problem can contact Coleman Professional Services at 330-394-8831.

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