As cold weather persists this winter, it remains a prime time for a dryer vent fire. To protect your home and family, learn more about what causes dryer fires and how to prevent them.
Why Do More Home Fires Occur in Winter?
While forest fires occur primarily during the heat of summer, home fires are more prevalent in the cold, dry months of December through March. Here are several winter-related causes of house fires:
Heating equipment: About two-thirds of home fires are caused by furnaces and space heaters.
- Holiday lights and decorations: Old strands of lights and dry Christmas trees are a recipe for disaster. Overloaded circuits or misused extension cords can also overheat or spark and start a fire. Open flame candles, another common holiday decoration, are the second leading cause of home fire injuries.
How to Prevent Gas and Electric Dryer Fires
Have your dryer professionally installed. Make sure the electrical cord and outlet are safe to use with this high-powered appliance.
Don’t run the dryer without a lint filter.
Check the vent hose behind the dryer to make sure it’s not kinked, crushed, or damaged in any way.
Locate the outdoor vent exhaust and make sure it opens while the dryer operates. If your dryer vents into the attic or another interior space, hire a professional to reroute the exhaust outside.
Clean the dryer lint filter. One-third of clothes dryer fires are caused by dirty lint filters. Remove buildup from the filter by hand before every batch. Then, scrub the filter with a nylon brush every six months for a more thorough cleaning.
Hire a professional to clean your dryer vent. While the filter traps a substantial amount of lint, some of it bypasses the filter and ends up clogging the vent pipe. Schedule professional cleaning once a year, or whenever you notice your clothes taking longer to dry, to remove flammable lint from the vent pipe.
Real-Life Dryer Fire
Earlier in 2017, a homeowner in New Hampshire awoke to a strange smell. It turns out that, while he was sleeping, his dryer had caught on fire. When he opened the dryer door, the smothering clothes inside received a rush of oxygen and burst into flame. As a result, fire shot out of the dryer door.
The homeowner worked fast, throwing buckets of water onto the appliance until he extinguished the blaze. But he didn’t call the fire department until the next day. (He should have called right away, rather than assuming the fire was completely out and the danger eliminated.)
When the firefighters arrived in the morning, they determined lint in the dryer vent hose was to blame for the incident. The homeowner said he always removed lint from the filter between batches, but he had never cleaned the vent hose. A clog further down the line prevented heat from escaping, and even while the dryer was off, enough heat and dry air allowed the clothes in the dryer to ignite.