Friday, September 23, 2011

Dryer Fires Still a Hot Topic!

I did an interview on The Joe Madison Show last week which reaches a worldwide audience on Sirius Satellite radio. The subject matter was the recent death of a 10 year old boy caused by a clothes dryer catching fire in his home. This needless tragedy is repeated more than 20 times a year in this country directly attributed to the product called, “the clothes dryer.” Let me ask a few questions of all readers of this column.

Should the person responsible for a home take the necessary precautions with clothes dryer? Should that person take it apart or have a technician take it apart to clean the inside? Shouldn’t someone make sure the vent line is properly installed and cleaned at least once on a yearly basis? That little boy died because his guardians didn’t know of these questions or simply was not cognizant of how dangerous a clothes dryer really is.

There are 42 dryer fires every day in this country and those are only the ones reported to a fire department. I believe the number may be as high as 3 times this amount which is fortunate for those folks who were there to extinguish the fire. Some of these fires could have been caused by a malfunction of the dryer itself but I think that number is very small. I know for a fact that the majority of dryer fires occur because a vent line is packed with lint, the inner cabinet of the dryer is filled with lint in every crevice possible or the vent line is made of the wrong material or possibly travels too long a distance.

I received several emails from my recent radio interview and most of those were from people who didn’t have a clue how serious problem dryer fires have become.

Some 20 years ago when I first began investigating dryer fires and Frank Felts the Fire Chief of Garden City reported there were 12 dryer fires in the city that year, I could well imagine how big this problem was across the country. When I helped draft and write the law for the State of Michigan pertaining to the outlaw of plastic (vinyl) or tinfoil vent line, it became a national story. I am sure the efforts have saved lives but yet that effort was not enough. Several times a year I hear or am involved in litigation caused by tragedy of some sort dealing with dryer fires. I sometimes feel so useless in my endeavors to prevent any of the current 42 dryer fires that occur each day. I need help from every person possible. I wish the manufacturers would do more and they can. I need people to make this subject important in their daily conversation at the water cooler or a lesson at the dinner table. If you had a killer in yours or your children’s laundry room, wouldn’t you take the necessary steps? The following are facts for discussion.

Plastic, vinyl vent line is against the law. Solid metal or flexible metal is the proper vent line to use. Tin foil is not considered metal according to State codes. Vent line should be no longer than 16 feet with the use of only 2 elbows. More than 2 elbows equate to a vent line that is too long and only 4 inch vent line is permissible. Clean the vent lines completely a least once a year and scrub the lint filter with water and brush every few weeks. Once every two years take the dryer apart and vacuum all excess lint built up throughout the interior of the cabinet. Remember, it’s the lint that first ignites to give you a fire. When the dryer begins to make noises it should not, consider that a warning sign and a fire alert. Take the necessary steps to have it repaired. There should be smoke detector installed above clothes dryer. Never leave the house of go to bed with a clothes dryer in operation. Please understand my passion on this subject and help me save lives.

Stay tuned.