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MESA, Ariz. -- In 2013, fire departments across the Valley responded to dozens of home fires, with many particularly hard to put out because of massive amounts of clutter inside.

Larissa Dvorak, of the Mesa Fire & Medical Department, warns hoarding fires can be problematic for both victims trapped inside and firefighters battling the flames.

"We're talking about people who store a lot of goods within their house," she said. "Things that are taking up space that would ordinarily be used for living or walking, such as hallways, living room, and so forth."

The clutter makes the environment unsafe because it results in a trip and fall hazard. Dvorak said that in several instances, hoarding makes it harder for firefighters to enter the home and get to where the fire is.

"The fire load is much greater and the material that can catch on fire is ten times what it would normally be," she said. "It makes it hotter and much more dangerous for firefighters."

Also, for the resident in the home, getting out is much harder. Dvorak said the fire department had fatalities last year, because home owners were not able to escape.

Medical emergencies also become much more complicated for paramedics, as they are not able to ease in and out of homes and render aid.

"We bring in a whole team of paramedics and EMTs to help in a medical situation," she said. "It makes it difficult for us to work in clutter environments with all the gear and medical equipment we need to use."

To start the new year in a safe environment, fire departments ask residents to do everything they can to keep their homes as clear as possible of excessive materials.

Martha Maurer, News Editor

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