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USFA Releases New Report On Clothes Dryer Fires

Scarsdale Fire Department's Fire Inspector Albert Mignone shared some fire prevention tips from the USFA.

Scarsdale Fire Department's Fire Inspector Albert Mignone shared the following fire safety tips from the USFA:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report examining the characteristics of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings. The report, Clothes Dryer Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS.)

According to the report:

  • An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires are reported, in residential buildings, to the U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
  • Clothes dryer fire incidence in residential buildings was higher in the fall and winter months, peaking in January at 11 percent.
  • Failure to clean (34 percent) was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Dust, fiber, and lint (28 percent) and clothing not on a person (27 percent) were, by far, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Fifty-four percent of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings were confined to the object of origin.

77% of all dryer fires occur in one or two family homes.  In a private home there are no enforceable codes that deal with the safe operation of dryers.

Dryer fires occur less in multifamily apartments {17%) where the shared laundry areas are maintained by custodial staff and where fire inspectors or code enforcement officers check periodically to see that codes are followed.  This also accounts for hotels and motels having fewer dryer fires (3%).

Other locations considered in the report were boarding houses, dormitories, barracks, fraternities, sororities and group homes (2.5%).  There is a strong code enforcement presence required in these types of residential units and therefore the reduced number of fires.

Inspect your dryer like an inspector;

1 - Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and operation. 

2 - Use metal exhaust ducts (not plastic) to vent the dryers to the outside.  Minimize the number of turns and bends in the duct.  The further the vent opening is from the dryer the fewer bends it can have.

3 - Make sure the outside vent closes properly to prevent animals from entering the exhaust vent especially in the fall and winter months.  They can be attracted to the heat.  A clogged vent will reduce the efficiency of the dryer and require longer drying cycles and preventing this will keep your energy costs down.

4 - Check the outside vent monthly if it exits the residence less than 7 feet from the ground.

5 - Visually check the vent to see that it opens when the dryer is operating.

6 - Clean the dryer chamber filter after every load.

7 - Never turn on your dryer and leave the residence or go to sleep. 

8 - Be careful not to place items in a dryer that are marked air dry only.  [Foam backed bathroom rugs, some athletic shoes or special clothing]  Read the labels carefully when you have any doubt.

9 - Do not dry items in a dryer that have come in contact with flammable materials. 

The report also shows that the fall and winter months have more fires because of the type and quantity of clothes worn in the cooler months. The highest percentages of dryer fires occur between 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Please become aware of these safety issues and use the information to make your home safer.

The primary data for this report was obtained from the NFIRS reports.   Specific information was used from the “Topical Fire Report Series” volume 13, Issue 7 / August 2012.

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