Why Is This House Fire Still Burning? Was Hoarding Cause Of High Content Load On Kaspar Avenue?

As late as 8:30 p.m. Friday, firefighters were working to extinguish hot spots in a destroyed house at 812 North Kaspar Avenue. It was demolition, and smothering of flames, that finally completed the operation that also involved the high volume of water dousing the house over 12 hours.

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Neighbors were affected negatively during the night of the fire and the day following the fire.

• A water main broke just north of the fire scene. The main break caused lowered water pressure in the neighborhood. Silt from eroding ground near the prolonged water main break filled the street.

• Electricity was at risk of power failure because water sprayed on the fire in sub-zero temperatures also collected as ice on power lines and risked bringing the power lines down. Even primary lines at the back of the lot were considered at risk. ComEd workers, who arrived on the scene early, warned firefighters about overshooting the house, and advised them to minimize hitting the backyard primary lines. No known power failure occurred as a result of the house fire.

• Foul smoke affected the neighborhood for house, causing some neighbors to leave the area for the day.

• Kaspar Avenue was barricaded and blocked to through traffic, causing difficult travel and interrupting routine garbage collection by Groot.

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The house was unoccupied when firefighters arrived about 11:50 p.m. -- following a neighbor's report of the house fire at about 11:46 p.m. The house was already well-involved with flames when police arrived just before firefighters. Police reported the doors appeared to be blocked, as they attempted to alert anyone who might have been inside.

The sole resident of the home arrived at the scene about 2:00 a.m.

When firefighters attempted to enter in doors and windows, they found items pile high in front of windows and doors -- what firefighters call "high content load." It is the content that would not stop burning well after the initial discovery and report of the house fire.

After fighting a spectacular blaze in darkness, the fire continued to flare up and emit foul smoke in the neighborhood. At night, the smoke smelled like burning wood consistent with a house fire. By morning, the smoke smelled like a burning dump or dumpster fire -- the result of burning plastics, metals and other contents that were piles inside the house.

A strong south wind with gusts to 30 mph blew much of the day, blowing the foul smoke toward neighbors to the north.

Why is hoarding an issue for the fire service?

Hoarding can be a fire hazard. Many occupants die in fires in these homes. Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home. In addition, many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them.

Responding firefighters can be put at risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult.

Those living adjacent to an occupied structure can be quickly affected when a fire occurs, due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.

-- NFPA, National Fire Protection Association

The fire department and village officials have not called the case a "hoarding incident" but the situation appears to be a possible case of hoarding.

Some communities have set up active Hoarding Task Forces. Task Forces are usually established by service providers to gain knowledge about and insight into the problem of hoarding behavior, to share case
information, and to develop intervention strategies.

Some even serve as the intervention/response mechanism or hoarding situations. According to the NFPA, Hoarding Task Forces are often made up of mental health providers, building representatives, community service providers, faith based organizations, the fire service, public health representatives, family members, and many others. Coordinated and collaborative interventions are more likely to bring about positive outcomes than individual agencies working alone or in conflict. Teamwork is imperative and mental health
intervention is vital to effectively change this often dangerous behavior.

When talking to someone
who is hoarding, the NFPA recommends:

• Be respectful and show concern for the person's safety

• Match the language of the person. If the person talks about his "collection"or her "things", use that language. Avoid using derogatory terms, such as
"junk", "trash", or "hoarding".

• Focus on safety issues, such as fires, fall hazards, and avalanche conditions. Note possible ignition sources or trip hazards and try to build support for addressing these issues instead of insisting on an
immediate and overwhelming cleanup.

• Show empathy by indicating that while you
understand that your presence is upsetting for
the person, some kind of change is necessary.

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