Is the clothes dryer in your home safe to use?

By  | 

WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) A house fire that took the lives of two young boys in North Hero is believed to have started in the vent system of the family's clothes dryer. Ike Bendavid talked with some experts on how to prevent fires when it comes to your home dryer.

Jay Lambert's truck is loaded and he is ready for his next appointment. "It should be inspected annually and cleaned if necessary," said Lambert, a technician for Vermont Dryer Duct.

He spends his days cleaning and inspecting dryer vents. "It's a very quiet insidious safety issue in the average home," he said.

Lambert say a build-up of lint in the dryer exhaust vent can get so hot it ignites. He says some signs you may have a problem -- after a full cycle, your clothes are still wet, or super dry and hot to the touch. He says you may also notice a burning smell. These are all indications you should get your dryer vent and ducts cleaned.

Lambert shows off several tightly-packed bags that represent the lint he's pulled from about 25 homes.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: And that's behind the scenes, in the vents we don't see.
Jay Lambert: That's correct.

We took some of the lint to the Williston Fire Department to get a live demonstration on how it could burn.

"I would consider this type of fire a steady burning fire," said Williston firefighter Prescott Nadeau.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Being in a pipe -- this could burn a lot faster?
Prescott Nadeau: It could, yeah.

Nadeau says every year there are about 3,000 fires caused by dryers that cause millions in damage. "They range in various types, whether it be starting in the vent area because of the build up or potentially some mechanical issues, whether it be with the gas or electrical hook ups," he said.

Nadeau urges everyone to make sure you clean the lint trap after every use - and never start your dryer when you go to bed or leave the house. "If a fire were to start you won't have any near enough time to be able to call the fire department and get us there in a reasonable amount of time," he said.

Lambert says that cleaning your dryer not only helps prevent a fire, it can save you money in the long term. "Not only is it an efficacy issue, but the truth is your machine will last longer," he said.

A reminder that the lint we burned was in a controlled environment by professionals, and it should not be tried at home. Fire officials add that they also recommend unplugging appliances at home when not in use.