House fires are the third leading cause of damage to residential structures in Florida and appliances are a significant culprit. The information below covers common causes of fires in household appliances and tips for preventing them.
• Cooking Appliances. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2021, fire departments in the United States responded to 170,000 fires caused by cooking equipment, resulting in close to $500 million in property damage. While many of these fires resulted from unmanned appliances, uncleaned cooking appliances play a significant role in preventable fires. When using your stove or oven, always ensure you clean any grease or other flammable liquids that might spill onto your cooking surface. If your stove catches fire, either cover it with a nonflammable pan or lid, pour baking soda over the fire, or use a fire extinguisher to smother the flames.
If the fire is inside your oven, do not open the door! Fire needs oxygen to sustain itself. Turn off the oven and the fire will eventually put itself out. Allow everything to cool before opening the oven to deal with the resulting mess. If the fire escapes the oven door, it’s time to call 911 and leave your home until the fire department deems it safe.
• Clothing Dryers. As mentioned in the last issue, it is important to ensure your dryer vent is free from lint. The high heat generated by the dryer can cause an accumulation of lint to catch fire and can quickly get out of hand. Ensure your dryer has a lint trap installed and clean it out after each use. Every six months, be sure to disconnect your dryer vent hose from the vent and either vacuum or blow out the buildup of lint from the duct where it connects to both your dryer and the exterior of your home.
• Dishwashers. Perhaps a surprising addition to this list, dishwashers still can pose a potential hazard if water makes its way into the electrical components of the appliance. To maintain your dishwasher, make sure you regularly check the plastic components of the appliance (i.e. dish soap dispenser) to ensure they are still intact to keep the dishwasher watertight.
• All Major Appliances. Always plug your major appliances, including refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into extension cords can overload the cord, causing it to melt and potentially catch fire.
For more information on maintaining your household appliances to minimize the risk of house fires, check out the U.S. Fire Administration’s site.