Expert: 1 out of 20 houses are hoarder houses - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Expert: 1 out of 20 houses are hoarder houses

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PHOENIX -

A house on fire is already a dangerous situation. But what makes that worse is a home that belongs to hoarder.

The inside of that home near 19th Avenue and Buckeye was just packed with stuff – clutter everywhere -- creating fuel for the fast-moving fire and a risky situation for firefighters,

This type of situation involving hoarders is a growing concern to firefighters across the valley and the country, according to one expert.

Cory Chalmers is actually attending a hoarding conference in northern California.

Chalmers actually left his job with the fire department to become a hoarding expert because it was something he had been encountering so much on the job. He says the common denominator in a lot of these cases is depression.

"What we found was debris, things stacked up, stuff that we would classify into the hoarder category."

Firefighters had a tough time getting inside this house. Fire Captain Jonathan Jacobs says once inside, crews were crawling around on top of piles three to four feet high.

"A lot of these houses aren't made to have this type of fire load, to have that much stuff that's going to burn," says Jacobs.

Cory Chalmers, the host of the A&E show, talked to us via Skype. He says hoarding is a mental disorder, and what triggers it is usually a traumatic event, sometimes losing a loved one.

"Anyone that watches the show, you hear the tragic stories about things that have happened and people are trying to fill voids and they're trying to fill the voids with stuff," says Chalmers.

He spent 15 years at a fire department in Orange County and has seen it all.

"We had a lady that had her husband deceased in her house once and didn't want to get rid of him. We see all kinds of weird things they just can't let go, whether it's a dead animal or just a piece of trash."

He says this disorder is getting more attention. More people are realizing just how dangerous this situation is.

"I think the biggest thing people need to realize, it affects five percent of the population. Five out of every hundred houses we drive past are hoarders. That's a huge problem."

Says there really is no profile for a hoarder. They come from all walks of life, some are very educated and successful.

In Monday's case, the fire spread to the house next door and caused some damage, but it was saved. People in both houses escaped safely.

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