Don't be another fire call: check dryer vents
The island’s volunteer Fire Department has been responding to about one fire call a month at island homes and restaurants, and Fire Chief Tristan Payne is seeing a pattern: clothes dryers.
Specifically, dryer vents. Lint builds up in the vents over time, and if homeowners don’t clean it out, it can cause a fire. This time of year, when summer rentals are winding down and beach-towel season is drawing to a close, is a good time to check for build-up from heavy use.
“It’s basically improper maintenance,” Payne says. Particularly for those who rent their homes out, “You haven’t been around to see what’s happening in your home,” he says. “Dryers get worked heavily with towels and so on. They may well have been running daily.”
The lint can catch on vent piping and also build up underneath and behind the machine, he says. Codes have changed to help alleviate the problem, but many island homes were build in the 1980s and before, under older codes, and haven’t been updated.
Now, dryers require metal venting, not plastic or foil vents. The pipes should be solid, not flexible, and sealed with metal tape, not duct tape. They should be at least 4 inches in diameter and shouldn’t be secured with any nails or screws that protrude into the inside of the pipes, causing bumps where lint can catch.
Another cause of dryer fires is washing clothes that have volatile substances, such as gas or oil, on them. If you’ve been working with oil, wash the clothes, more than once, by themselves, Payne advises. Then hang them to dry rather than putting them in the dryer.
Next month is National Fire Prevention Month, and the Fire Department will have materials available. In the meantime, don’t forget to schedule annual maintenance for heating equipment like hot water heaters and furnaces, Payne says, since without maintenance, they can also be a cause of home fires. And make sure fire and carbon monoxide alarms are installed properly and get tested regularly. “I’ll go out once a week for smoke and CO alarms — and they’re not always false alarms,” Payne says. “Don’t disconnect your alarms. For us on Block Island, the volunteers, having all this stuff in working order helps everyone.”
Nationally, almost two-thirds of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to statistics Payne has gathered.
For more information, call public safety dispatch at 466-3220.