8 On Your Side: Appliance Property Damage

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that from 2006-2008, major appliances caused more than 150 thousand residential fires.

There were 3,670 injuries, 150 deaths and 547-million dollars reported in property damage.
The problem with safeguarding your home from an appliance fire is that you really can't.

"If it's going to fault or it's defective and it causes a fire, it's very hard for the consumer to know that," said Gale Blomenkamp, the Boone County Fire Battalion Chief.

What you can do is take some preventative measures. Don't throw that last load in the dryer before you go to bed.

"When you're running those appliances at night, you run the risk of something happening and you not being awake to notice or do something about it," Blomenkamp says.

Don't run the dishwasher before you head to work, and clean out your dryer vents.

The national fire incident reporting system lists the top three appliances that caused fires from 2002 to 2009. Ranges were number one; they caused almost 45 thousand fires in those seven years. A distant second was clothes dryers at almost 14,000 fires. Even farther behind at number three was microwave ovens with more than 2,000 fires.

Locally, Blomenkamp says a dishwasher was the most recent offender.
"The one appliance fire that we recently remember was in 2009, it was a dishwasher. [I] Did some research and that dishwasher had been recalled. From 1995-2000, there was a report of 144,000 recalls on that dishwasher and a certain number of incidents that caused no injuries, but did cause property damage."

Staying on top of those recalls is the key to avoiding property damage. The best way to do that is to register your appliances or buy from a store that keeps a database. Gene Lavely, a salesman at Downtown Appliance Home Center in Columbia, works with customers when a recall is filed.
"Whenever we get a recall notice from the manufacturers, we'll go through the system and pull up all of our customers that have had that model and call them up and tell them we need to come in a replace a piece that way it won't malfunction and cause a fire."

Another tip: unplug your coffee maker, toaster, and microwave oven if you're going away for the weekend.

"Anytime you have an outlet in the wall, there's energy there, whether it's to the whole device or just to the chord. If you have a faulty chord, that chord is still energized whether that device is operating or not" says Blomenkamp.

And remember: just because you aren't using the appliance, doesn't mean it isn't energized. You may not be able to 100% safeguard your home from an appliance fire, but you can certainly do a better job of protecting it. Right now, there's a recall on the Coleman Evcon Red T brand furnace that is found in trailers and manufactured homes. The company reports 223, 600 of them were sold in the United States. More information on the recall can be found here.