Safest People, Safest Places

Highlighting the dangers of hoarding

View into a hoarder's window

As part of the County Durham Safer Homes’ action week the fire service is keen to highlight the dangers of hoarding and provide practical help to those households in need.

Since January 2015 County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has received 34 direct referrals relating to hoarders through the Safer Homes project.

With help from the fire service, Durham County Council and other agencies these referrals have been supported to make their homes safer. In many cases help to remove rubbish and other items has been arranged.

With regard to fire, there are a number of dangers:

Hoarding makes it more difficult, or impossible, to escape a home in the event of a fire;
Hoarding makes it more difficult for firefighters to access a property and locate a fire, delaying the time it takes them to extinguish the fire;
Hoarding makes it more difficult to access electrical sockets in a home. This usually results in the use of extension leads, which trail on the floor of clear routes in the home. These often get walked on and become frayed, making them dangerous, increasing the risk of fire; and
Hoarding makes working in the kitchen, cooking on hobs and in microwaves and using toasters and grills etc. very dangerous as the heat sources are too close to flammable items kept on the work surfaces instead of being stored away properly in cupboards.

interior view of a hoarders room

Rob Cherrie, Safer Homes project manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said: “Hoarders are at very high risk of fire in the home but one of the most difficult groups to reach. Since Safer Homes began we have found that the number of people referred to us for help has increased six fold. Hoarding is a problem that can develop in households over years and by the time people recognise there is a problem they may feel that they are out of their depth and unable to make their home safer. This is when we can provide free practical help and advice.”

With regard to crime, the issue of compulsive hoarding can be very sensitive, however, the reality is that hoarding can be a form of anti-social behaviour and can cause major safety risks to both an individual and their neighbours. There are also concerns that hoarders can be targeted by would-be thieves due to the large amounts of property in and around their homes.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, portfolio holder for safer communities with Durham County Council, said: “We would like to assure people that support is available when it comes to hoarding and as part of Safer Homes’ Week, partners will be on hand to offer the necessary advice.”

For more information about the Safer Homes project, to request help or advice about hoarding or book a fire/crime safety assessment, please contact County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service:

Phone - 0191 375 5561 or 0845 223 4221 (calls charged at local rate)
Email –
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