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A dryer burns outside a home on Keysville Avenue,in Spring Hill, earlier this month. Hernando County Fire Rescue units arrived at the home just three minutes after the call, extinguishing the fire before serious damage was done. The department gets 20 to 30 dryer-fire calls a year.

SPRING HILL — Laundry day is never fun but add a dryer fire to the routine and it becomes a potentially deadly affair.

It happens a lot more than Hernando County Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Carroll likes to see, particularly since it is so easy to prevent. Carroll’s department responded earlier this month to yet another of the 20 to 30 dryer fires it sees each year. This one was in on Keysville Avenue in Spring Hill. Fortunately, it was caught in time and there was little property damage and no injuries.

Units arrived within three minutes of the report and found the home’s occupants outside. Firefighters discovered the laundry area just inside the garage, where the dryer was on fire. They immediately closed the dryer door to starve the fire of oxygen. The dryer was moved outside, and the fire was controlled. It doesn’t always work out so well.

The National Fire Protection Agency says the number one cause of dryer fires in failure to clean the lint trap properly, according to Carroll. In addition to the trap, which is a removable lint screen, it’s a good idea to clean underneath the dryer and inside the vent pipe exiting the dryer to outside the house at least twice a year. Both areas can collect lint, which is the fuel responsible for most dryer fires, said Carroll. Carroll said cleaning is easier with vents that exit through a wall. Roof vents may require a professional to clean them out with a long rod or snake device.

If the dryer clogs with lint “it can overheat from the element below the barrel (dryer drum),” said Carroll, adding that the heating element can get so hot it glows bright orange. The heat can ignite built-up lint deposits of clothing in the dryer’s drum. It’s because of lint buildup that can’t be seen that more than just a cleaning of the lint trap after every load is recommended.

“You’d be surprised what gets under there,” said Carroll referring to lint below the drying drum inside the dryer. He said the front panel on most dryers can be removed to clean this area.

Carroll also said it is never a good idea to leave the house with the dryer running.

“You wouldn’t leave home with a candle burning or water boiling on the stove,” he said. “It’s the same thing with dryers.”

Carroll said had the Spring Hill family not been home to notice when its dryer burst into flames, they likely could have lost their home. Their dryer was electric, but the danger from fire can be even greater with a gas drier, he said. In that case, it is important to shut off the gas supply as soon as possible. Homeowners who experience a fire inside the dryer drum should close the dryer door if possible to cut off the oxygen supply. If the fire is out of control, members of the house should immediately leave to a safe place outside the home.