Firefighters never know what to expect when they head into a burning home, but one of the most dangerous situations they can encounter is hoarding.
Clackamas Fire District No. 1 firefighters spent Wednesday evening training for that very situation.
Crews turned an abandoned club house at the old Pleasant Valley Golf Course into a mock hoarder's home. They packed it full of furniture and boxes, then filled the building with fake smoke.
The drill began when a group of firefighters pulled up to the simulated house fire. They were told it was 3 a.m. and a neighbor reported that three people were still inside the burning home.
"If we showed up at 3 o'clock in the morning to a house and there were cars outside and someone told us there were still people inside, then we go into rescue mode," said firefighter Jason Ellison. "We all go barreling inside the house, strategically looking in the bedrooms. "
Visibility inside the building was low and firefighters taking part in the simulation quickly discovered the cluttered conditions. Piles of clutter blocked their way and slowed down the search for the three victims.
"You're stepping over stuff, around stuff and tripping your way through trying to find your way around the rooms," said firefighter Ed Riordan.
After about 15 minutes, firefighters found all three dummies hidden in the building and carried them outside.
It's important that firefighters train in hoarding conditions because it can sometimes become a reality. A man was killed last February when his house caught on fire in northeast Portland. In that case, firefighters said flaming piles of clutter and garbage fell on top of him during the rescue.
Firefighters hope their training exercise will be a wake up call to anyone who lives in hoarding conditions, or knows someone who does.
"Our goal is to keep you safe," said Brandon Paxton, the public information officer with Clackamas Fire District No. 1. "But without your help in maintaining your own properties, we can't do that."
Firefighters said you should always have a working smoke detector in every room and have two ways to escape your home if there is a fire.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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