Cleveland (OH) Fire Department Weighs Hoarders Task Force

The Cleveland (OH) Fire Department is considering creating a hoarders task force after a number of emergency incidents in which firefighters attempted to work in homes filled with debris.

Fire department spokesman Larry Gray told The Cleveland Plain Dealer ( that the goal would be to educate the public on hoarders and raise awareness.

A fire on Wednesday afternoon underscored the issue. Firefighters responding to an afternoon call were told that a woman was trapped in a home on West 83rd Street in the city. Crews could not gain entrance through the first floor because of mountains of clutter blocking their way. Although firefighters managed to make entry through a second-floor window, they found other rooms on that floor also piled high with objects. Members were forced to evacuate the structure when fire on the second floor extended into the attic.

The firefighters were not hurt, but later found out the suspected victim was not home.

Firefighters face many hazards when operating at homes filled with clutter, sometimes referred to in the fire service as Collyer's Mansions. Excessive debris provides fuel for the fire, and conditions inside can prevent firefighters from accessing and transporting potential victims, operating hoselines effectively, and exiting the structure; they also face the danger of being trapped by debris. Read First-Due Battalion Chief: Collyer's Mansions and Hoarding: A Fire Prevention and Response Concern for more on this issue.

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