Dangerous house fires caused by something many homeowners don’t check

Dryer fire dangers increase in fall and winter months and many are from a cause most homeowners don’t think to check.

19 Investigates: Dangerous house fires caused by something many homeowners don’t check

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -An estimated five people die each year from dryer fires. It can also cause thousands of dollars in damage to homes.

“The deal was I put the clothes in the dryer. He folds them and puts one more load into the dryer," explained Jennifer Hulec.

That was the routine in the Hulec household. It was like any other day when she loaded the laundry and she and her husband, Tom took off for work.

It was only a short time later that their teenage sons noticed something wasn’t right.

“My brother was downstairs sleeping and I thought, ‘oh he woke up and made breakfast,'" Quinn said.

He and his brother, Quinn, smelled smoke in their Parma home, but didn’t know where it was coming from. They checked the

“Right when I came downstairs, you couldn’t breathe. It was sort of breathtaking," Louis said.

The heavy smoke quickly filled the home. It was coming from the dryer. Parma firefighters put out the flames, but the damage was already done.

“It can create a lot of damage and smoke is the real bad part in a lot of fires with a dryer because it goes through the entire home," explained Parma firefighter, T.J. Martin.

The cause was lint. It was hiding in a place many wouldn’t think to check, but it’s a dangerous and deadly problem sparking fires in thousands of homes each year.

“Dryer fire, unfortunately, is pretty much a lot of our response," Martin said.

Excess lint gets trapped in the ducts that lead from the back of your dryer to outside your home. After time, that lint, combined with heat from the dryer, creates a perfect fuel for flames to ignite.

“Lint is extremely flammable. A lot of times people will save lint and use it to start a fire in outside campsites,” said Martin.

According to The Federal Government, 34% of dryer fires happen because people don’t clean their ducts. It was something the Hulec family said they had no idea they needed to do.

“I thought just the bottom of the dryer the lint catcher was there for that particular reason,” Tom said.

Most dryer fires happen in fall and winter months when lint builds up from heavier clothes and blankets. An estimated five people die each year from dryer fires.

“Smoke will kill you faster than the fire will," Martin said.

Quinn and Louis both have asthma. Their parents know things could have been a lot worse.

“I got in here and I got so lightheaded and dizzy that I had to get out," Louis said.

Even after the flames were put out, the Hulec family’s nightmare was far from over. They spent months in hotels had to throw out their mattresses and even got new flooring throughout their home.

For the Hulec’s it was an expensive and horrifying lesson learned.

“We don’t ever run the washer or the dryer when we’re away at all anymore,” Jennifer said.

19 News looked into ways you could make sure this doesn’t happen to you. In the second part of this story, 19 News will show you easy ways to clean out your dryer ducts on your own and when to know to leave it to the professionals.

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