The danger of hoarder fires

Locals from Mount Laurel, Evesham and Burlington County IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) will hold a presentation next month to help prevent the increasing number of house fires.

Chris Santone, Battalion Chief of the Mount Laurel Fire Department, noted that the decision to start the presentation came after firefighters noticed a recent increase in fires in homes with hoarding conditions. The department then discussed working with the county and the residents of Evesham to organize a larger-scale informational event to reach more residents.

“In recent years, the hoarding seems to be getting worse, especially for us at the fire service,” Santone said. “We see it quite often when we have occasional fire calls (like) a medical run or when a fire alarm goes off.

“After a few back-to-back winter fires (caused by hoarding homes), a few of us brainstormed the idea of ​​doing a concerted effort in a bigger location and see if we could get a crowd and a push for some better education,” he added.

The fire presentation covers pre-planning, tactics and strategies, incident management and public education. It will be led by Tim Klett, a 40-year firefighter veteran who spent three decades with the New York City Fire Department. He has taught at several fire academies and is currently the lead HOT (hands-on training) instructor for the Fire Department Training Network in Indiana.

Santone explained that during a fire, piles of potted stuff in a house can cause a fire to spread and grow faster. The situation requires additional water use from firefighters and could potentially compromise the safety and structural integrity of the home.

“There’s more to burn in a hoarding house,” he explained. “For example, if we dump 600 gallons of water per minute into a house to try to put out a fire, and it has 4 or 5 foot high piles of debris from hoarding, you’re adding all that weight per minute to that house.

“(Firefighters then have to worry) whether that house will be structural enough to withstand up to 5,000 gallons of water and also be safe for us to search after.”

The presentation will be held at Votta Hall at Rowan College in Burlington County in Mount Laurel on October 22. Doors open at 8:30am and the event will run from 10am to 2pm. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased in advance or at the door via Venmo (pay to @MLFD4408), check or cash. There will be light refreshments and vendors.

Following the presentation, there will be a Dine and Donate raffle whose venue will be announced prior to the event. Proceeds benefit a local family who suffered a fire.

Anyone with additional questions or interest in sponsoring the event can call Santone at (609) 820-6122. For updates on the lottery venue and other information, follow the Mount Laurel IAFF 4408 Facebook page.

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