Faulty Fire-Causing Appliances

Home appliances cause an estimated 150,000 fires a year, resulting in 150 deaths and more than 500 million dollars in property damage.

A new Consumer Reports investigation has turned up disturbing findings. While many of those fires are due to human error, a troubling number are caused by defective appliances.

The fire that spread through one home started in the kitchen. The cause-a toaster, according to fire officials.

Beverly Uberti, the homeowner, says, "It was horrendous, just horrendous. What wasn't destroyed by fire was destroyed by smoke and water damage."

Another fire started in the dishwasher. The homeowners in this case say it started while they were out of the house.

Consumer Reports reviewed 69,000 reports of house fires blamed on appliances between 2002 and 2009. Its investigation found a significant number were not caused by human error.

Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports says, "We found at least 23 percent are clearly attributable to problems with the appliances-mechanical, electrical, or design flaws. In some instances, the appliances turned on by themselves."

Faulty appliances causing the most fires were ranges, followed by dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

DiClerico says, "In the last five years, more than seven million dishwashers have been recalled due to defects that could cause a fire. And nearly eight million other appliances have been recalled for fire risks."

To check if an appliance you own has been recalled, you can go to recalls.gov.

Why are there so many recalls due to fire hazards?

"Appliances have gotten a lot more complex, so more can go wrong. And many recalled products are being manufactured abroad, the majority in China."

Consumer Reports says until appliance design and quality are improved, homeowners are left to wonder if the appliances in their homes are safe."

In response to Consumer Reports investigation, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers said, "Designing and manufacturing safe products" is a top priority of its members.

As for homeowners, important steps you can take-register new appliances with the manufacturer so you'll receive recall notices.

And don't run your dryer or dishwasher overnight or when you're away.

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