The Hannibal Rural Fire Protection District in Hannibal, Missouri was called at 12:12 p.m. Saturday, May 25, to 4516 West Ely Road, where smoke was reported in the home by the owners Brandon Hayes and Kim Santos.
Firefighters found smoke coming from an area around a dryer vent when they arrived. The siding was removed from the outside of the home by the fire crew in order to access the smoldering fire in the insulation in the wall.
The fire department checked the home after extinguishing the fire with a thermal imaging camera and ventilated the home to remove the smoke. Fire damage was limited to a small section of wall at the dryer vent area but smoke damage was more severe.
According to the National Fire Protection Association over 15,000 house fires are caused each year by lint catching fire inside a dryer vent. Many people are unaware that lint is very flammable.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that all dryer vents be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at least once per year for one or two-person families, or more often for larger families in order to prevent dryer vent fires. Dryer screens only capture 25% of the lint, and the remaining portion goes into the dryer, vent connector, and vent. Chimney sweeps also check the vent connection, vent cover, and vent installation to be sure it was correctly installed per code requirements.
Signs that a dryer vent needs to be cleaned out are poor dryer performance with clothes taking longer to dry, or the dryer not working at all. Dryer vent alarms such as Lint Alert can be purchased that will notify the homeowner when the vent needs to be cleaned so no guessing is involved.
The MCSC website says that one of the more common mistakes people make with dryer vents is installing a panty hose or sock over the exterior lint exhaust. This can cause lint to back up and is a fire hazard. The vent cover needs to be free and clear.