Cluttered Homes Can Make a Fire Fighter's Job Twice As Difficult

Fairfax, VA - One man’s trash is another one’s treasure, but for fire fighters, too much of it packed into a home will turn all of it into dangerous fuel for active fires.  

“Fire fighters are increasingly battling fires made vastly more hazardous by hoarding,” says John Niemiec, President of Fairfax County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics.

Hoarders collect and keep large amounts of stuff, such as newspapers, clothes, household items – even trash – that can cause unique challenges for fire fighters. While television shows on hoarding provide entertainment, hoarding is a widespread problem that poses a real threat to fire fighter and public safety. Often, there are no outward signs that a home dweller is hoarding.

“Containing a fire in a home where hoarding is an issue can take twice as many fire fighters and twice as long,” says Niemiec. “In the best of conditions, when rooms are sparsely furnished and clear of clutter, fire fighters sometimes must blindly follow a search pattern along walls and furniture. Excessive clutter can throw fire fighters off and seriously hamper rescue efforts.”

Your Fairfax County Fire Fighters offer these tips to declutter your home and help reduce home fire hazards and increase public and fire fighter safety. 

  • Keep escape routes open.
  • Discard stacks of mail, newspapers and magazines.
  • Keep flammable objects away from cooking areas while preparing food.
  • Consider storing collectible items that take up floor space in an outdoor shed or storage facility.
  • Alert fire fighters to homes you think have hoarders.
  • Go to for help.
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