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Firefighters urge spring clean to eliminate hazards of hoarding


Today is the first day of the meteorological spring so Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is urging householders to take the opportunity to spring clean to help make their homes hazard free.

High levels of clutter make it much easier for a fire to start and can increase the chances of a fire spreading throughout the home.

Clutter can also make it very difficult to escape a fire, especially if items are piled high and blocking exit routes.

As well as potentially trapping people in their homes in the event of fire, hoarded combustible materials such as newspapers, magazines, wood, books and flammable liquids would make it easy for a fire to spread quickly.

Since 2012, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service has been called to 26 fires across Merseyside where hoarding hindered rescue attempts by fire crews.

In 2016, a fire caused by a fan heater saw two elderly people tragically lose their lives after fire spread quickly through their Liverpool home due to extensive hoarding of items.

Ian Mullen, Incident Investigator for Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Hoarders are at very high risk of fires in the home. Not only can hoarding make it difficult, or impossible, to escape in the event of a fire but it also makes it more difficult for firefighters to access a property and extinguish the fire inside.

“Hoarding is a problem that can develop in households over years and by the time people recognise there is a problem they may feel they are out of their depth or unable to make their homes safer.

“If anyone is concerned they may be at higher risk of fire due to hoarding, or know of someone who is, they should contact Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 731 5958 for free home fire safety advice.”

Follow the tips below to help keep your home clutter free and fire safe:

  • Whether you use a traditional oven and hob or other methods of cooking like a portable stove, make it a priority to keep the cooking area clear.

  • Do not place items on, or near to, heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment.

  • Do not store gas cylinders in your home as they are a serious hazard during a fire. If you have medical oxygen, follow the instructions and guidance given by your registered supplier. Do not store cylinders in basements, under stairs or in cupboards with electric meters / equipment.

  • If you smoke, use a proper ashtray that won’t burn and put it on a flat, stable surface so that it can’t fall over easily. Do not leave your lit cigarettes unattended.

  • Put candles or tea lights in heat-resistant holders that hold the candle or tea light firmly. Ensure the holder is placed on a flat, stable, heat-resistant surface. Keep candles and tea lights away from anything that can catch fire and never leave them unattended.

  • Make sure you have at least one working smoke alarm per floor and test it as part of your regular clearance sessions.

  • Plan and practise how to escape from your home if there were a fire. Choose an escape route and keep it clear of possessions; in the event of a fire this will help you to escape quickly or allow firefighters to reach you if you are unable to escape.

  • Ensure possessions are stored on stable surfaces and do not stack items to a height that they become unstable; they could fall over and block your escape.

  • Newspapers and mail stored in bulk are highly combustible and will cause fire to spread rapidly. Sort mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and recycle them on a regular basis.

  • In the event of fire, do not attempt to put it out yourself; leave your home straight away and call 999 once you are safely outside. Do not stop on your way out to collect possessions and do not go back inside once you have escaped.

  • If you feel you need help or assistance with hoarding there are many organisations that will support you through the process free of charge. For more information visit www.helpforhoarders.co.uk

  • For free home fire safety advice call Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 731 5958.

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