Task Force Developed to Combat Hoarding

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Firefighters are facing a new challenge when fighting fires.

Some of the homes they respond to are too full of objects that they cannot get inside to fight the flames.

It happened Wednesay at a home in Cleveland.

"This would be a classic case of what you could classify as a hoarding situation.  Debris and items were stacked up in every room on both levels," said Larry Gray with the Cleveland Fire Department.

Firefighters were forced to attack the fire from the outside.

"That's usually not a tactic that we use here in the city of Cleveland. But with all the substance that was in the hallways and in every room, it made fighting this fire very difficult," added Gray.

According to the Cleveland Fire Department, hoarding within city limits has become such an issue they've initiated a task force, along with the Department of Health and the Department of Aging.

"Hoarding is not a new problem, it's been around for decades," said Bert Rahl with the Benjaim Rose Institute on Aging.

Rahl is the director of Mental Health Services at the Institute.

"About 12% of our caseload is severe and chronic hoarders.  We are one of the primary agencies of the Cuyahoga County Hoarding Connection," added Rahl.

And together, they've initiated a progam that is a first-of-its-kind effort to determine the amount of severe hoarding in the county.

"They are now hosting a database to collect real time data on the incidents and prevalence, so that people that have severe hoarding problems can be reported to the county," said Rahl.

And while no one was hurt in the fire in Cleveland, the Institute said the next situation involving hoarding might not be as fortunate.

"Particularly when you think of apartment buildings and the potential for fires, it doesn't just involve the individual, it involves the apartment building, it involves the community the apartment building is in, the city and the county.   It crosses all strata of our societal existence," added Rahl.