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Hoarding A Growing Concern For Central Texas Firefighters
Central Texas firefighters tell KEYE TV they're battling a new fire risk more frequently. It’s known as hoarding, a psychological condition where people accumulate or are unable to discard possessions.
Firefighters told us hoarding fires are tougher to fight and far deadlier than residential fires. They described homes packed with stuff from the floor to the ceiling in every room. Firefighters said when battling a hoarder fire, it's often easier to cut a big hole in an outside wall, rather than risk firefighters lives in the labyrinth of junk inside.
The Kyle Fire Department even wants to start a hoarding task force in Central Texas because it's so dangerous.
“I feel like this disorder completely robbed me of my thirties,” said Judi, who was brought to tears while talking about compulsive hoarding.
The behavior is showcased on several cable networks like A&E's hoarders, or TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive.
Judi said she has struggled with the disorder since she was a teen and still does today.
“Sometimes I can get things to be socially acceptable and then I backslide again,” she explained. “It's extremely, extremely difficult. It's heartbreaking.”
Heartbreaking and potentially dangerous.
“We do not as a community take hoarding seriously,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rick Beaman with the Kyle Fire Department. “It's a huge danger, it increases the fire load tremendously. If you have stuff piled floor to ceiling already, you just have a cave in situation that's going to be a nightmare.”
Deputy Chief Beaman is hoping to start a task force so firefighters can be more prepared when entering a hoarder’s house. Beaman said not only is it dangerous for firefighters, it also decreases the chance of rescue for anyone trapped inside.
“You just start digging,” he said. “You just got to dig it out and move it somewhere. It's just a bad situation to be.”
“I’m sure one or more of my apartments in the past were fire hazards,” Judi said.
She, along with Beaman said it's important not to judge hoarders, but to help them. “I’m desperate, desperate to recover from this,” Judi said. “I want my life back.”
Judi told us she's improving every day with help from a variety of professionals. She also started a support group to help others like her, who want to get better and who want to stay safe.
The group meets every Tuesday at 7p.m. at Red River Church.
By Katherine Stolp