You may’ve seen them on TV or know someone first-hand who just can’t seem to throw things away.

Hoarding disorder affects up to six-percent of Iowans — and it can critically raise the risk of house fires. Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson has seen hoarders up close and recognizes it can be classified as a compulsive mental health disorder, in addition to a safety threat.

“My father hoarded tools like you can’t even imagine,” Rierson says. “He probably never used them, but he hoarded the heck out of them. So, it just really all depends on the level of the mental health issue, or do they have some type of other compounding mental health issue that makes it even worse?”

Rierson says the danger for anyone may depend on the severity of the individual’s disorder. “I’ve seen where you can’t even walk into a room because it’s floor-to-ceiling stored of everything imaginable in there,” he says. “Sometimes it’s very neat and somewhat orderly, and then there’s times where there is no rhyme or reason.”

When it comes to fighting fires, Rierson says hoarding puts the resident at great risk if a fire ignites, but also responders, too, can be endangered or trapped in a hoarder’s home. If you have concerns about a hoarder, local fire departments can put you in touch with resources for help.

(By Ken Huge, KFJB, Marshalltown)