An expert in fighting fires at hoarders' homes is giving pointers to local fire departments across the island this week.

Ryan Pennington, a firefighter from Charleston, West Virginia, has developed a lecture tour to get other firefighters prepared before a hoarder fire happens.

"If the firefighters don't adjust their tactics in there, they have the potential for getting disoriented, getting lost, [and] running out of air," he said.

Pennington said when a fire rages at an overstuffed home, there are many issues for firefighters — including something as simple as trying to get inside.

"Is that a fire that you folks can handle?" he asked the group at his talk in the Gander Fire Hall on Wednesday. 

"Could you guys go inside that room, put that fire out, and go home safe?"

Pennington said large amounts of junk can disorient firefighters, and hide tripping dangers.

"I want firefighters to kind of open their eyes, and realize these problems can be in any neighbourhood," he said. 

"Most likely, we're probably not going in to fight the fire like normal, even if it's a small fire, cause the risk is just too great."

Incidents on the rise

Pennington said hoarding fires are on the rise across North America — including in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vince MacKenzie, Grand Falls-Windsor Fire Chief

Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services president Vince MacKenzie said communities need to co-operate when it comes to firefighting. (CBC)

Vince MacKenzie, the fire chief in Grand Falls-Windsor, agreed.

"We're starting to see more and more of this," he said.

"I know [at] my fire department, we've experienced a couple of hoarding fires over the last five or six years, and I know there are other departments of course around the province that have experienced similar instances."