Dryer danger: Make sure vents are clean to avoid fires

Spring inspires many people to clean and one thing you may not think about is your dryer vents. One of the most common reasons for a house fire comes from all the lint that builds up.

It's an important chore. One firefighter Nathan Benfield does routinely and hopes you do too.

"Everytime you want to use the dryer you should clean it out," he said. Benfield fights fires for the West Mecklenburg Volunteer Fire Department. He's had to fight fires started by dryers before.

"It was from a dirty lint trap and a couple of embers caught the clothes on fire which caught the laundry room on fire," Benfield explained.

It's one thing to clean the lint out of the filter after each load of laundry but experts say few people go the extra mile to clean out the full tubed vent that connects the dryer to the outside of the house. Benfield says it doesn't take long for a fire to spread.

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There are warning signs associated with a potential lint build up. Experts say you may have a problem if your dryer isn't drying your clothes well or if it is taking multiple cycles to get your clothes dry. Another thing to keep an eye on is if your dryer is extremely hot to the touch. Benfield says if you have any of these problems you may want to get your dryer professionally checked.

"It's best to do everything you can to protect yourself and your property to keep from having to see us," said Benfield.

U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulting in around 13 deaths according to the National Fire Protection Association.