Hoarding and excessive clutter

The risk of a fire starting is increased by hoarding and extreme clutter as combustible materials are more likely to be stored close to, or in contact with, heat sources such as cookers and heaters.

This risk is increased further when clutter in the home reaches extreme levels as utilities to the home may be disconnected leading to unsafe practices such as the use of camping stoves for cooking and candles for lighting.

Access and egress to and from the home can also be restricted which means the person’s escape may be slowed down or prevented in the event of a fire. 

Fire loading in such properties presents risks to neighbours too as it increases the likelihood of fire travelling to their properties. If there is a fire, the structural integrity of the building may be compromised during and after firefighting operations, due to the absorption of water by the hoarded materials. 

Top tips 

  • If you store large amounts of possessions in and around your home, you can help keep yourself safe from fire by following the advice below. Our ‘top tips’ are small, simple steps that can easily be included in your regular weekly/daily clearance sessions. 
  • Whether you use a traditional oven/hob, or other methods of cooking such a portable stove, make it a priority to keep the cooking area clear. 
  • Do not place items on or close to heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment. 
  • Do not store cylinders in your home as they are a serious hazard during a fire. If you have a medical need for cylinders, they should be kept upright and outdoors where possible – never store cylinders in basements, under stairs or in cupboards with electric meters/equipment. 
  • If you smoke, use a proper ashtray that won’t burn and put it on a flat, stable surface so that it can’t tip over easily. Don’t leave your lit cigarettes unattended. 
  • Put candles/tea lights in heat resistant holders that hold the candle/tea light firmly and ensure it is placed on a flat, stable, heat resistant surface. Keep candles/tea lights away from anything that can catch fire, and never leave them unattended. 
  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and test it as part of your regular clearance sessions. You can contact your local fire service for advice. 
  • Plan and practise how to escape from your home if there were a fire. Choose an escape route and keep it clear of possessions – in the event of a fire this will help you to escape quickly or allow fire fighters to reach you if you are unable to escape. 
  • Ensure possessions are stored on stable surfaces and do not stack items to a height that they become unstable – they could fall over blocking your escape. 
  • Newspapers and mail stored in bulk are highly combustible and will cause a fire to spread rapidly. Sort mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and recycle them on a regular basis. 
  • In the event of a fire, do not attempt to put it out yourself – leave your home straight away and call the fire brigade once you are safely outside. Do not stop on your way out to collect possessions and do not go back inside once you have escaped. 
  • If you feel that you need some help or assistance with the above, there are many organisations that will support you through the process free of charge. 

We offer a free Safe and Well visit to help you to reduce your risk from fire by giving you advice and signposting you to support to reduce the number of combustible items in your property. 

Please see our leaflet for advice and get in contact with our Prevention Team 01743 260200 if you have any concerns.  

Useful links: 

Keeping Adults Safe in Shropshire Network – Self Neglect 

Telford and Wrekin Safeguarding Partnership 

Shropshire Council

Hoarding disorders

Help for hoarders

Clouds End

Telford & Wrekin Public Protection Team   

Tel: 01952 381999 Email: tradingstandards@telford.gov.uk    

Shropshire Council Community Protection Team  

Tel: 0345 6789000 Email: community.protection@shropshire.gov.uk