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Fire officials want to reduce hoarding fires in 2014

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.

About the Author

Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.


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