Hoarding and Fire Safety

Some people like to collect lots of things in their home. Over time, this can become a serious problem and cause a fire risk.

Here, you’ll find safety advice to help you manage hoarding.

What is hoarding?

Hoarding is a disorder which can cause people to keep lots of items in their home and store them in an untidy way. The items that people hoard tend to be of low value and can even block people’s access to whole rooms within the home.

At Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, we have lots of free help available if you or your loved one is showing hoarding behaviour.

Hoarding and what it means for fire safety

If a person is hoarding a lot of items, it can affect fire safety within their home. This is because a fire would have access to lots of fuel, especially things like newspapers, magazines, and books. Any potential escape routes might also be blocked by the person’s excessive number of possessions. When these exits are blocked, it can be impossible for someone to safely leave the property if a fire starts.

Any fire that does start will likely spread very quickly through the building. This makes hoarding very dangerous, especially around heat sources like electric heaters, candles, and gas hobs.

If you are worried about a loved one’s hoarding behaviour, please complete the form on our home fire safety check page. Our expert team will provide you with personalised fire safety advice. If you meet certain criteria, we will also visit the property in person to see how we can improve your loved one’s safety.

When someone you know is hoarding, it can feel quite overwhelming to try and deal with. We are here to help make sure your loved one is safe.

There are several straightforward things you can try to improve overall fire safety in the home of a hoarder. However, hoarding is complex and not always easy to manage. Make sure you get the support you need to try and deal with the problem.

Hoarding can look like this, with lots of items stored in no particular order. Many items people hoard are of low or no value.
hoarded items

Helping to protect a hoarder

Start with this list of steps to improve fire safety in a hoarding situation:

  1. If the person smokes, suggest they do so outside.

  2. Check to make sure the property has working smoke alarms.

  3. Work with the person to plan an escape route should the worst happen.

  4. Contact your local authority to see if they can help remove some of the items.

  5. Try to persuade the person to visit their GP to discuss hoarding disorder.

Where to find help

Our prevention and community fire safety teams are here to help. We can work together with you to make sure your loved ones are safeguarded.

You can find lots of advice about hoarding disorder on the NHS website [opens in a new tab].

If you would like to speak with us about hoarding, please call us on 0800 169 1125 or text us on 07766 831145.

Advice for carers

If you are a carer for someone with hoarding, we have some tips to help.

You might be a professional carer, support worker, or healthcare specialist. Whatever your role, hoarding can be a challenging condition to work with.

Here are some thing you can do as a carer:

  • Speak with your manager to make a hoarding management plan.

  • Contact the person’s family, if possible. They might be able to help.

  • Take steps to improve fire safety short-term, as detailed above.

  • Discuss any additional concerns or needs with local authorities and NHS trusts.

  • Organise a home fire safety check with our team. We will fit smoke alarms as required and provide specialist advice.

Caring for hoarders who have limited mobility can be more difficult. If the person you care for is bed bound, in a wheelchair, uses a walker, or walks with a stick, the clutter and larger objects being hoarded can make movement impossible.

It’s even more vital in this case to develop an escape plan in case of a fire. Working smoke alarms can also help to give more forewarning during an emergency. Try to communicate with them about what they would do if the smoke alarm sounds. In an emergency, always call 999 straight away.