Tumble dryer fears as fires spark plea

Tumble dryer fire from Lancashire, taken by a fire officer
Tumble dryer fire from Lancashire, taken by a fire officer

Fire chiefs in Lancashire are urging homeowners to heed safety advice after hundreds of devastating tumble dryer fires.

Whirlpool, manufactuer of Creda, Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline and Swan tumble dryers, said more than five million of their machines sold between 2004 and September 2015 could be dangerous as they allow lint to build up against the heating element.

During that time, there have been 50 tumble dryer fires in the Blackpool area, 12 more in Bispham, eight in Fleetwood, seven in St Annes and three in Lytham.

John Taylor of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The figures speak for themselves.

“There can be dreadful consequences, so users have to take simple precautions.

“The first is registering your purchase with the manufacturer so that they can get in touch with you with safety warnings and recalls. We can send out information and the media help, but there’s nothing quite like the personal approach.

“The second thing is follow instructions. Reading the bumf that comes with the machine can be quite critical to safety.

“You need to clean out the drawer or compartment where the fibres from fabric build up. If this isn’t done, it can build up and ignite. It’s a simple job.

“Also, we advise people not to use their washing machines or driers when they go out or go to bed. The temptation is there, but you’re not going to be alert to things like smoke or be able to switch the machine off.

“These fires can be life-threatening.

“A few years ago a couple had to climb on the roof of their extension to escape a tumble dryer fire. They were extremely lucky.”

In April, fire engines from Garstang and Blackpool were needed to tackle a tumble dryer fire at a house in Barrows Lane East, Great Eccleston.

The cause was put down to a build-up of fluff and one occupant had to be treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics.

On March 30, a tumble dryer fire caused a blaze which ruined a family’s kitchen at a terraced house in George Street.

In February, fire crews from Blackpool and Fleetwood had a late night call-out to Ashdown Close in Poulton, after a tumble dryer caught fire in a garage.

The fire spread to and destroted a fridge freezer, tools, and one square metre of roofing.

Last June, research by consumer group Which? showed tumble dryers were the second biggest cause of house fires, accounting for 12 per cent behind washing machines on 14 per cent.

Electrical Safety First recently reported that almost 50 deaths each year are attributable to electrical fires, and faulty electrical appliances caused £41.6m of damage in the UK every year.

In 2010, a family lost all their possessions in less than 20 minutes after a blaze sparked by a faulty tumble dryer wrecked their home.

Anthony Oldham had left the appliance on when he nipped out to take his daughters to school. Around 15 minutes later a neighbour called on his mobile to say Mr Oldham’s detached house in Tunstall Drive, Altham, was engulfed in flames.

Mr Taylor added: “Anything with a heating element is always going to have the potential for fire.

“They have to be maintained and if they’re no longer serviceable, they need to be removed. Don’t take risks with anything like that.

“And the ultimate safety advice is to have a working smoke alarm fitted.”

The highest number of tumble dryer fires in one year was in 2004, when there were 47 across the county.

The lowest number seen was 27 in 2009, with most years seeing high 20s to mid 30s.