Warnings over dryer use after house fire

Papakaio farmers Michelle and Rogan Borrie’s farm house, which was destroyed by a tumble dryer...
Papakaio farmers Michelle and Rogan Borrie’s farm house, which was destroyed by a tumble dryer fire last July. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Lint in your socks, jocks, pockets and belly buttons is annoying, but left untended in tumble dryers, it can have devastating consequences.

Oamaru farmers Michelle and Rogan Borrie have teamed with FMG Insurance to remind people of the dangers of not cleaning lint out of dryers, after one of Mr and Mrs Borrie’s farm houses was destroyed by fire in July last year.

Mrs Borrie said the house, in Papakaio, was tenanted by farm workers, and thanks to working smoke alarms, they were able to escape the blaze unharmed.

Fire investigators quickly found the source of the fire was a tumble dryer in the laundry, which had begun as a result of lint build-up in the dryer’s filter.

Further investigations found in the 18 months the tenants had been living in the house, the lint filter had never been emptied because they were unaware it was necessary for the safe functioning of the dryer.

Mrs Borrie said there was plenty learnt along the way — things she was keen to share with others, particularly the source of the fire and the use of smoke alarms.

"It is such an easy little task, but if you are not aware of it, then why would you be emptying it."

She said one of their best investments was an annual fire safety check, where a contractor came in to make sure smoke alarms were fitted and working, and fire extinguishers were ready to go.

"For us, that investment really paid off the night of the fire.

"The smoke alarms woke up the household and they were able to get out of the building before things really went wrong.

"With the cooler months upon us, I really urge anyone with a dryer or with tenanted properties, to make sure that those lint filters are being regularly emptied.

"Cleaning the lint filter out might be the difference between life and death.

"Insurance is there for physical damage, but I know we would all find it much harder to sleep at night, had a life been lost so close to home."

FMG insurance advice services manager Angela Taylor said at this time of the year, when the temperatures were low and the weather was inclement, it was hard to get washing dry without using tumble dryers.

But owners needed to be careful with them.

"Clogged vents, ducts and filters are the primary causes of dryer fires."

She recommended owners clean the lint filter between each load, to avoid build-up which could result in filters overheating and igniting, even after the dryer was turned off.

She also urged people not to overload their dryer and use the correct settings.

"Overloading can cause excessive heat to build up.

"Allow for at least a quarter of the dryer to be free so items can move around and aerate.

"If you must use the dryer for items soiled with fats and oils, such as tea towels, ensure you hot wash first and use the lowest heat setting on the dryer with a cycle that includes a cool-down period."

"It is easy to say, ‘Oh I will empty the filter next time’, but it’s much harder to deal with the aftermath of a house fire."