Examining the Role of Fire Prevention on Hoarding Response Teams: Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services as a Case Study
Hoarded homes present a significant threat to the safety of occupants of the home and adjacent homes as well as emergency responders. Extreme accumulation of combustible materials raises the fuel load and prevents egress. Despite having regulatory tools related to fire prevention, fire departments generally lack the necessary background to address the many challenges related to the complex mental health problem of hoarding. Using Vancouver as a case study, this paper highlights the role of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services in the City’s coordinated hoarding response and outlines their fire code inspections protocol developed for use in hoarding cases. On the basis of fire inspection reports, we compare the processes and outcomes of complaint-driven hoarding inspections with standard annual fire inspections of restaurants. Hoarding cases take longer to resolve and are more challenging, but inspectors achieved satisfactory status in 94% of cases without prosecution. About 20% of hoarding complaints do not involve fire code violations. Although this approach requires an investment and engagement with other community agencies, it represents a useful model for other jurisdictions.
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Kwok, N. et al. 2018. Examining the Role of Fire Prevention on Hoarding Response Teams: Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services as a Case Study. Fire Technology, 54(1):57-73.