Firefighters support Hoarding Awareness Week

Fri 16 May, 2014

Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the UK's first ever Hoarding Awareness Week. The initiative has been organised by the Chief Fire Officers' Association, and it runs from Monday 19 May to Sunday 25 May.

Hoarders are people who are unable to dispose of excess or unused belongings, to the point where they are storing so many items that their living space becomes cramped. Compulsive hoarding is a debilitating psychological condition that is only just beginning to be recognised.

Neil Boustred, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team, said: "Hoarding can create significant risks to the individual, the community and the emergency services.

"Hoarders often store large quantities of combustible items such as books, newspapers, magazines and wood. A fire could spread quickly, and escape routes could be blocked or difficult to negotiate because of slip, trip and fall hazards.

"We are also asking people whose homes are untidy or cluttered, or who have a 'junk room' or a blocked back door, to make sure they are not putting their safety, and the safety of the people around them, at risk."

Neil's key messages are:

  • Plan and practise how to escape from your home in the event of an emergency. 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.
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms and that you test them regularly. Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will carry out a free safety check in your home, fitting free smoke alarms where they are needed. To book one, ring 01296 744477 or send an email to
  • Make it a priority to keep the cooking area clear.
  • Ensure possessions are stored on stable surfaces, and don’t stack items to a height where they become unstable and could fall over, blocking your escape.
  • Newspapers and mail stored in bulk are highly combustible and will cause a fire to spread rapidly. Sort mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and recycle them regularly.
  • Don’t have wires trailing across floors, and don’t overload electrical sockets and adapters.
  • Don’t place items on, or close to, heaters, lamps or other electrical 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 tip over. Don’t leave your lit cigarettes unattended.
  • Put candles in heat-resistant holders that hold them firmly. Place on a flat, stable, heat-resistant surface away from anything that can catch fire, and never leave them unattended.
  • In the event of a fire, don’t attempt to put it out yourself – leave your home straight away and call 999 once you are safely outside. Don’t stop on your way out to collect possessions, and don’t go back inside once you have escaped.
  • If you have a medical need for cylinders, they should be kept upright and outdoors where possible. Never store cylinders in basements, under stairs or in cupboards with electricity meters or electrical equipment.