It was a very relaxing Easter weekend… oh, other than the part where I nearly burned down our house. On Saturday morning, I threw a load of freshly laundered clothes into the dryer, just as I’ve done hundreds of other times. (With four kids, laundry is never “done” – the wash/dry cycle goes on forever.)
Roughly 30 minutes later, I was upstairs and smelled an acrid burning-plastic smell. My son Peter did too, and he was in another room. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until Peter looked out the kitchen window and saw smoke billowing out of the dryer vent pipe. We headed down to the basement laundry room… and smoke was pretty thick at the ceiling level. I opened the dryer and saw clothes on fire in the drum, as well as flames behind the clothes compartment. We unplugged the dryer, and used a wet towel to extinguish the burning clothes, then poured some water in the back to put out the flames we could see yet not reach any other way. All of my fire safety training (i.e. a childhood spent watching every episode of Emergency!) had paid off! We were like a modern day Gage and DeSoto.
At the time, it seemed rather funny – especially the sweatpants/running shirt/boxer shorts that had melted/melded into a charcoal briquette. But after the adrenaline rush subsided, I realized that if no one had been at home while that load was frying instead of drying, our home would be toast. Scary stuff.
It wasn’t lint buildup, either. I clean out the dryer vent line once a year. But our dryer is so old that recently drawstrings have been getting caught in a gap between the drum and the back of the dryer. My best guess is an article of clothing got caught in there, and the spinning of the drum created enough friction to start a fire.
Don’t worry, Fire Marshall Bill… I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t dry clothes when I’m not at home. Unless I’m using this: