Steps you can take to prevent dryer fires

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In Chesterfield, a malfunctioning dryer is to blame for a huge fire that decimated a home Friday. While it's not clear exactly how the dryer malfunctioned, any clothes dryer can be a fire hazard if you don't take some simple precautions. Here are the common problems professionals see that can keep you from becoming a fire victim.

When Chaz Clements Jr., President of Ducts Unlimited, is looking for fire hazards in the laundry room he says "I look for kinks. I want to see how the dryer is hooked up to the outside wall, what's been pushed up against it, what's been smashed."

He says 90% of the problems are hoses that have to make bends to exit the home. This one doesn't bend, but it has some problems.

"Once it's been pushed against the wall it just smashes it so it's not oval," Clements said. "[Lint] is what's collecting in your dryer. The lint will collect and just keep collecting until it clogs up. Lint in the dryer is the most flammable material we have."

And that's why it's so most dangerous. Heating elements can spark clumps of lint trapped by a smashed hose and when this stuff starts to burn, it doesn't stop.

"This needs to be taken out put back with a more flexible type of pipe, a shorter piece it will not hold quite as much lint," he said.

When hoses clog, the heat doesn't flow out causing your machine to work harder and shortening its lifespan.

"Your dryer has limit switches that overheat, therefore you'll be buying more dryers or heating elements," explained Clements.

As far as daily maintenance Clements said, "This should be cleaned every time you use your dryer. It's going to be more efficient and make your dryer last longer."

Exhaust vents are served better with flapper caps.

"You can see the flappers moving and the air is coming out," he said.

Clements recommends annual cleaning because sometimes the problem begins outdoors.

"Birds love to build bird nests in dryer vents," Clements added.

Birds can clog the hose, decreasing efficiency, but worse, creating a fire danger.

"And it's gonna catch on fire, these things need to be inspected every year," he said.

The size of a dryer fire will double every minute it burns so the fire department says never try to put it out yourself. Their advice, call 911 and leave the building immediately.

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