Your clothes dryer poses a major fire danger but it can easily be fixed

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A fire danger could be lurking in your home, but there is a simple step you can take to keep your family safe.

The question you need to ask yourself is: When is the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned? If you don't know, that could mean trouble.

"A fire waiting to happen." That's what Dodi Jennings said she was told after her dryer vent was cleaned out by JNJ Dryer Vent Cleaning. She has lived in her Cary home for 12 years and this is the first time it has been cleaned.

"I never knew I was supposed to have it done," she said. During the cleaning the technician--besides finding lint--found three bird nests inside the dryer vent.

The lint buildup in a dryer vent is what can become so dangerous.

"Lint is very easy to burn, very flammable, doesn't allow for adequate air flow. You're working with high temperatures in a dryer, so over time it doesn't allow for adequate airflow. So it can't ever cool down, so it's just harnessing all of that energy," firefighter Scott Gregory with the Wake Forest Fire Department said.

"(If your dryer does start smoking) leave the door shut, try and turn it off and walk away," Gregory said. "If it's in the laundry room, close the door and call 911. The worst thing you can do is open it. It gives it more oxygen and then you will have a bigger fire."

Here in the Triangle, there have been more than 20 fires that started in dryers over the last few years. That includes 14 in Durham, nine in Cary, seven in Carrboro and six in Wake Forest.

Facts about home clothes dryer fires

  • 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
  • Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires.
  • More home dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.

Source: US Fire Administration

When it comes to getting your dryer vent cleaned out professionally the cost starts around $65 and goes up from there. JNJ Dryer Vent Cleaning, a Holly Springs company owned and operated by Triangle firefighters, said if your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry clothes, that could be a good sign that the dryer vent needs a good cleaning.

The cleaning doesn't take long, a technician first disconnects the vent from the dryer and attaches it to a machine that sucks the lint in the vent out. Then outside, the technician uses tools to push the lint and cleans the build up inside the vent out. The end result always includes finding lots of lint and often other items.

JNJ shared with us these pictures of items they've pulled out of homeowner's dryer vents.

David Sasser with JNJ said when homeowners check their exterior vent they should look at the screen. If it looks clogged, he says that's a good sign the vent needs to be cleaned.

Another common problem to look for is if the duct from the dryer to the vent is crimped.

"If you push your dryer too far back it can squeeze that flexible duct restricting the airflow, causing the same issue. It could definitely cause a fire, and that's why you want to make sure your dryer is put in the right place," Sasser said.

It is recommended that you have your dryer vent cleaned out yearly.
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