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Clutter or "Collyer's Mansion" Conditions

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  • Clutter or "Collyer's Mansion" Conditions

    Is it just me or are people gathering and keeping more stuff than ever in their houses? It seems like more and more fires are affected by this. It can be a real pain in the ***. Or much worse when crap is piled floor to ceiling.
    Anyone changing tactics on these?
    We have recently changed to "light, medium or heavy clutter" to identify these houses or apartments. It gives a better idea of what is there versus just saying "Collyer's Mansion conditions.

  • #2
    I have run across several light to medium clutter and one heavy clutter. The heavy clutter had pathways through the rooms between the stacks of clothing, garbage, rotting food and cat feces. Fortunately we were not there for a fire but an EMS assist. The stench was unbelievable. All of our turn-out gear had to be washed after that call.

    I like the rating scale and I will discuss that with the command staff at my combo department. I think with heavy clutter tactics need to change simply because of the added danger of collapse of the piles burying and trapping firefighters.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

    Comment


    • #3
      Light to medium can amount to little more than a nuisance. Heavy clutter can be a game changer. Or maybe should be a game changer. Entrapment is a major concern in my mind. Every thing will be slowed down so even a RIT response would be delayed. Water application too. After a while structural collapse becomes a real concern.
      I think outside streams or at least the need for alternative access for hose lines should be considered. We must accept that searches will be delayed. Additional resources should be requested sooner rather than later.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by captnjak View Post
        Light to medium can amount to little more than a nuisance. Heavy clutter can be a game changer. Or maybe should be a game changer. Entrapment is a major concern in my mind. Every thing will be slowed down so even a RIT response would be delayed. Water application too. After a while structural collapse becomes a real concern.
        I think outside streams or at least the need for alternative access for hose lines should be considered. We must accept that searches will be delayed. Additional resources should be requested sooner rather than later.
        I agree 100% with what you said here.
        Crazy, but that's how it goes
        Millions of people living as foes
        Maybe it's not too late
        To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

        Comment


        • #5
          WOW! I expected this to be a great discussion.
          Crazy, but that's how it goes
          Millions of people living as foes
          Maybe it's not too late
          To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
            WOW! I expected this to be a great discussion.
            Or at least a mediocre discussion.

            I really am curious if it is a nation-wide trend. Or do all the hoarders tend to live where I work?

            Comment


            • #7
              I 100% believe it is a national trend. Because we have it in rural Wisconsin too.

              The weird element to me though is you would think it would automatically be a sign of mental illness and yet that doesn't always seem to be the case. Sometimes it seems to just be a thing that got bigger than the people can handle. Those would be the light to medium clutter. Often a collector, or an older person that just doesn't want to throw anything away, or just plain hoarder shop-a-holic. They differ from the piles of garbage and newspapers and animal feces that you tend to see in the heavy clutter mental illness situations.
              Crazy, but that's how it goes
              Millions of people living as foes
              Maybe it's not too late
              To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

              Comment


              • #8
                Definitely agree there are two levels to this stuff. I've seen situations that could only be explained by real mental illness.

                The hard part is that we have no real enforcement action available to us. We have little power here over what people do inside their homes.

                Comment


                • #9
                  No doubt this seems to be a growing issue. We see these popping up all the time when our crews are doing EMS. Early on in my career we had two fires within a year that both required adjusting tactics due to heavy clutter. The second fire I was conducting VES and couldn't find the floor and no way to close the door due the amount of everything, exited and reported conditions. Luckily no one was inside. Turned out to be more of a second floor issue where one resident created these conditions, the rest of the building was pretty "normal".

                  We have struggled finding a way to deal with heavy clutter conditions via codes, legal, or mental health professionals. It just doesn't seem anyone is the one resource.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Generally the first officer in will inform incoming units of "Collyer's Mansion" conditions.

                    If it's a confirmed fire, you should consider a larger fuel load in the apartment, or entire house, resulting in a larger fire than in your average dwelling. A simple room and contents fire might not be so simple. Access to a rear bedroom can be difficult resulting in a delay getting water on the fire, causing the fire to grow and spread. Also, having to climb over contents through narrow halls to get to the fire will also require climbing over the same junk to exit. Keep this in mind when leaving to change your SCBA bottle, or if conditions deteriorate and there's a need to evacuate. Much of the firefighting could be in the hands of the first engine and truck, as there might not be sufficient room for a back up line.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      captnjak, so what are your normal tactics on a heavy clutter fire incident? Offensive? Into the debris laden residence? Or Defensive? Exterior streams?
                      Crazy, but that's how it goes
                      Millions of people living as foes
                      Maybe it's not too late
                      To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
                        captnjak, so what are your normal tactics on a heavy clutter fire incident? Offensive? Into the debris laden residence? Or Defensive? Exterior streams?
                        Tactics haven't necessarily changed yet. It is only relatively recently that we have really acknowledged it as a serious problem. The big push now is recognition of the conditions, communication of the conditions and an adjustment to the level of aggressiveness employed. Our biggest problem (and maybe it's true for all departments) is acknowledging we HAVE a problem. Change comes slow. We sent engine company after engine company into public hallways of fireproof multiple dwellings that were literal infernos for years before admitting we had to change.

                        I believe more concrete guidelines need to be issued. Specific alternatives are not officially listed anywhere. Alternate access for hoselines would be a start. Take a line up a portable and hit the fire through a window if it is a private dwelling or smaller multiple dwelling. Breach walls in larger multiple dwellings. Breach walls in attached frame buildings. Use the floor below nozzle. Maybe even try a cellar distributor or cockloft nozzle (upside down) from the floor above. Admit and accept that the searches will be seriously delayed (a huge deal for us).

                        Getting out of a heavy clutter situation in a hurry is somewhere between difficult and impossible IMO. Pulling off a successful RIT operation would take a small miracle.

                        We can't go defensive in multiple dwellings. Too many floors and apartments. We have numerous non-fireproof apartment buildings that are quite large (and unsprinklered). Stairs are unenclosed in many of them, allowing smoke and heat to spread upward. There are also open vertical voids (pipe chases, dumbwaiter shafts, vertical I-beams, etc). Numerous apartments adjacent to and above the fire apartment require searching. The best we can do is go transitional. That is historically a dirty word around here. But we're working on it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by captnjak View Post

                          Tactics haven't necessarily changed yet. It is only relatively recently that we have really acknowledged it as a serious problem. The big push now is recognition of the conditions, communication of the conditions and an adjustment to the level of aggressiveness employed. Our biggest problem (and maybe it's true for all departments) is acknowledging we HAVE a problem. Change comes slow. We sent engine company after engine company into public hallways of fireproof multiple dwellings that were literal infernos for years before admitting we had to change.

                          I believe more concrete guidelines need to be issued. Specific alternatives are not officially listed anywhere. Alternate access for hoselines would be a start. Take a line up a portable and hit the fire through a window if it is a private dwelling or smaller multiple dwelling. Breach walls in larger multiple dwellings. Breach walls in attached frame buildings. Use the floor below nozzle. Maybe even try a cellar distributor or cockloft nozzle (upside down) from the floor above. Admit and accept that the searches will be seriously delayed (a huge deal for us).

                          Getting out of a heavy clutter situation in a hurry is somewhere between difficult and impossible IMO. Pulling off a successful RIT operation would take a small miracle.

                          We can't go defensive in multiple dwellings. Too many floors and apartments. We have numerous non-fireproof apartment buildings that are quite large (and unsprinklered). Stairs are unenclosed in many of them, allowing smoke and heat to spread upward. There are also open vertical voids (pipe chases, dumbwaiter shafts, vertical I-beams, etc). Numerous apartments adjacent to and above the fire apartment require searching. The best we can do is go transitional. That is historically a dirty word around here. But we're working on it.
                          I understand the need for a search, obviously saving lives is our primary mission. The difficulty, as you have explained, is getting in, maneuvering among the debris, and the concerns of disorientation and worrying about the fear of collapse of high piled junk. I can't imagine the difficulty of attempting a RIT operation in one of those buildings.

                          I am curious of why transitional is still a dirty word there. I am fascinated by the animosity towards this tactic. If a few seconds of water can make entry for us safer and make conditions more survivable for civilian victims what's the problem?
                          Crazy, but that's how it goes
                          Millions of people living as foes
                          Maybe it's not too late
                          To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I believe it to be national also. I work in a small city and volunteer in a rural county dept. I've seen everything from the floor being lined with a 6" layer of clothes and garbage, all the way up to climbing over stuff piled nearly to the ceilings in every room with both depts.
                            Last edited by tbzep; 06-28-2018, 02:17 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by FyredUp View Post

                              I understand the need for a search, obviously saving lives is our primary mission. The difficulty, as you have explained, is getting in, maneuvering among the debris, and the concerns of disorientation and worrying about the fear of collapse of high piled junk. I can't imagine the difficulty of attempting a RIT operation in one of those buildings.

                              I am curious of why transitional is still a dirty word there. I am fascinated by the animosity towards this tactic. If a few seconds of water can make entry for us safer and make conditions more survivable for civilian victims what's the problem?
                              It's a cultural thing. We have long prided ourselves on aggressive interior attack. We have the resources to do it but mostly we have a need to do it. Unless a window is on the front of a building and on a reachable floor we can't hit it from the outside. There are rooms with no window access at all. Buildings are attached on each side and getting the hoseline to the rear isn't much easier than getting it to the fire floor. In my mind a transitional attack must happen quickly or it is not a benefit.
                              Change comes slow. We do now have chief and company officers who understand the benefit of a quick shot through a window and will order it done where and when it is called for. But we are not at a point where all will do it all the time.

                              Comment

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