Dryer fires not just from lint traps; check vents too

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Clothes dryers are second only to stoves when it comes to causing house fires, but experts say these fires are preventable. Most people know to keep the lint traps inside their clothes dryer clean, but there's another fire risk that isn't so easy to check.

The National Fire Protection Agency estimates a nationwide average of 12,900 home dryer fires per year between 2012 and 2016. On average, dryer fires are blamed for 10 deaths, 360 injuries, and $211 million in property damage annually, according to WLS

"The vent needs to be checked and cleaned once a year," says Keinan Buskila with Air Flows Chicago. "This is a flex vent, not a metal vent, and this needs to be changed every couple of years." 

Buskila cleans dryer vents with a long tube and brush from the outside of your home for a fee, but you can do some things on your own. 

"After every load we always recommend that people clean the front of the dryer machine," he said. "If you have a hazard light on or it takes you more than one load to dry your clothes, we highly suggest that you call a professional." 

Simply taking the tube off the vent behind your dryer and looking can help. Make sure your vent is not obstructed or crushed behind your dryer so there's good airflow. 

"Lint is very easy to burn, very flammable, doesn't allow for adequate air flow," says Scott Gregory of the Wake Forest Fire. "You're working with high temperatures in a dryer, so over time it doesn't allow for adequate airflow. So it can't ever cool down, so it's just harnessing all of that energy." 

Experts say the biggest warning sign that you have lint build-up is if your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry your clothes. The frequency of cleaning your vents usually depends on the number of loads you typically do. 

Click here for tips from ABC7 on dryer vent maintenance and steps you can take on your own. 

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