Investigator Exclusive: Clothes dryer fires deadly and destructive

2:46 PM, Jul 14, 2010   |    comments
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In that same time period, there have been nearly 4,200 dryer fires in Ohio. Nationally, 15,600 dryer fires a year have resulted in 20 deaths and 370 injuries.

A family in Vermilion, a town about 45 minutes west of  downtown Cleveland, was forced from their home in March when a fire was believed to have started in the dryer in the back of the house. 

The fire spread through the ceiling and into the attic. No one was reported injured.

"It was just a lot of flames and a lot of smoke. It was shooting out the roof, and all the windows," neighbor Tiffany Hardie told the Investigator Tom Meyer.

Within the past couple of weeks, the house had to be demolished due to extensive damage.

Experts say dryer fires start most often when lint builds up in or around the dryer or its vent hose.

Gary Collins, the local owner of a company called the Dryer Vent Wizard, says he has seen all kinds of dangerous situations in homes throughout Northeast Ohio.

Collins says he still finds that many homeowners use  plastic to connect the dryer to the vent. Collins says plastic should not be used because it's not allowed by code and poses a fire hazard.

Most dryer fires are caused by clogged systems and contractors like Collins unclog the system by using scouring brushes attached to rubber hoses that are powered by a drill.  

In an upscale home in Broaview Hieghts, Collins found that the vent hose went directly into an unvented soffit.  

"My dryer would take three cycles to dry the clothes," homeowner Bill Raycheck said. The lint had no place to go and was trapped inside the home, causing a potential hazard.

In a demonstration conducted by the Home Safety Council, firefighters ignited a dryer to simulate a typical lint fire. The entire laundry room was engulfed in flames after only 12 minutes.

Experts advise that you to check the length of your ventilation system.  According to the International Mechanics Code, a vent hose should not exceed 25 feet.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has the following suggestions to help prevent dryer fires:

  • Clean the lint screen before or after drying each load of clothes  
  • Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct periodically  
  • Clean behind the dryer where lint can build up  
  • Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct  
  • Never leave your home when the dryer is in use  
  • Never operate your dryer while you're sleeping 

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