Firefighting

FIGHTING FIRES IN CLUTTERED RESIDENCES

Issue 11 and Volume 155.

BY BILL GUSTIN One of the most difficult, dangerous, and miserable fire operations involves residences whose occupants live in “pack-rat” conditions. This is the dwelling that is literally packed floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with old clothes, furniture, and often stacks of newspapers dating back to the 1940s. The fire documented in these photos is a classic example of the difficulties and dangers firefighters encounter within a home whose occupant is generally elderly, eccentric, or mentally ill and hoards just about everything that comes into his possession. Pack-rat housekeeping severely hampers fire attack and search and rescue because contents block doors and prevent them from opening more than a few inches. Pack-rat conditions also obstruct, with storage, firefighters’ access routes and exit paths. It can be extremely difficult or even impossible for firefighters wearing protective clothing and SCBA to pass between “aisles” of closely piled or stacked materials. Unfortunately,…

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