WILTSHIRE Fire & Rescue Service is supporting the first ever national UK Hoarding Awareness Week this week.

The campaign is being run by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, and focuses on the risks to people who hoard.

Group Manager Kathy Collis, from the service’s prevention department, said: “We all keep things we don’t really need. Some of us have more possessions than we have storage for. But hoarding is a complex issue that goes far beyond untidiness or indecisiveness.

“Hoarders can fill entire rooms from floor to ceiling, leaving themselves the minimum space in which to live. This retention of property presents a real fire risk, and makes it far harder for firefighters to be able to tackle any blaze. “We are therefore encouraging anyone who knows a hoarder to work with us to find ways of reducing that risk.”

Evidence from across the fire and rescue service nationally shows that:

• In 90 per cent of all residential fires, the fire itself is contained to the room where it started. However, that figure drops to 40 per cent where there is hoarding – as this additional material fuels the fire and makes it spread more quickly.

• When there is a fire in a hoarder’s home, there is a far greater risk that the individual and/or family members will find it difficult or impossible to escape.

• Common materials kept by hoarders include newspapers, magazines, books and soft furnishings – all of which are highly combustible.

• The presence of vast amounts of hoarded material creates a risk to firefighters, both in getting to the fire and increased heat and smoke.

Group Manager Collis said: “By offering home fire safety checks, and installing smoke alarms, we can work with hoarders to try and make their homes more fire safe.

“If they want help in dealing with their hoarding compulsion, then we can refer them to other agencies for that support. However, we know that not every hoarder is ready to take that step and we want to ensure that they are as fire safe as possible, whatever the circumstances of their home.”

If you would like to request a home fire safety check, visit wiltsfire.gov.uk/homefiresafetychecks or call 0800 389 7849.