West Ash Street dryer fire update

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COLUMBIA - Two families lost their homes Tuesday after an early-morning duplex fire.
Columbia firefighters arrived at 113 W. Ash St. right before 3 a.m. and were able to contain the fire within 15 minutes.
Four people were in the duplex at the time of the fire but evacuated by the time firefighters arrived, Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Bach said.
“We didn't find anybody inside, however they were able to locate one dog for one of the owners. He was found to be unharmed so they rescued him, took him outside and extinguished the rest of the fire," Bach said.
Both families were relocated to temporary housing. The estimated damages from the fire is $120,000.
An investigation led by the Columbia Fire Department Fire Marshal's Office found the fire started from a clothes dryer that was in operation. The fire was determined to be accidental.
Bach said people should know what precautions they should take.

“The biggest thing is that you always want to clean out your lint. You want to make sure that its completely clear. It's good for ventilation," he said.

Bach said people should never put oily rags inside a dryer.

"Sometimes certain chemicals on rags, when they are introduced to the heat of the dryer, can start a fire," he said.

Bach also suggests people keep the area around their dryers clear.

"The other thing is, when we're talking about dryers or hot water heaters or anything like that, you want to make sure you don't have combustibles, clothes or cardboard boxes too close to any appliance that produces heat," he said.

Steve Pezold, the owner of Clean Air Columbia, said people should clean out their lint traps routinely. 

"The lint trap should be cleaned out after every load," Pezold said.

Pezold said the consequences of not doing so could result in a fire just like this mornings.

"The heat from the dryer just cannot escape once it gets clogged. It just builds up and gets hotter and hotter and it will eventually catch on fire," he said.

Pezold also suggests that people look behind their dryers.

“The other thing I would really look for is the connecting tube going from the dryer to the wall. A lot of them now are aluminum or heavy material, but a lot of the older ones are plastic or vinyl and that at one time was the biggest cause of dryer fires. So I would definitely make sure that it is updated to a heavy duty aluminum," Pezold said.

Dryers account for 2,900 fires each year and approximately $35 million in property loss.