CLEVELAND - Home appliances cause an estimated 150,000 fires a year, resulting in 150 deaths and more than $500 million 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.
"It was just horrendous, just horrendous. What wasn't destroyed by fire was destroyed by smoke and water damages," said homeowner Beverly Uberti.
According to fire officials, another fire started in a microwave, even though the homeowners said it wasn't in use.
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.
"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," said Consumer Reports' Dan DiClerico.
Faulty appliances causing the most fires were ranges, followed by dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators and dishwashers.
"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," said DiClerico.
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," said DiClerico.
Consumer Reports said until appliance design and quality are improved, homeowners are left to wonder if the appliances in their homes are safe.
Consumer Reports said be sure to register your appliances with the manufacturer so you'll receive recall notices.
And more safeguards — don't run your dryer or dishwasher overnight or when you're away. And make sure you have working smoke alarms.
Scripps television stations across the nation joined together to take an unprecedented look at dishwasher fires. Our investigative teams in 13 cities from coast-to-coast looked at this serious problem that's on the rise.
Tune in to NewsChannel5 at 11 to see the government documents we uncovered documenting this problem, and see what the Consumer Product Safety Commission is doing about it.
Join the conversation by following us on Twitter #5digs as we dig for answers. Let Consumer Advocate Jenn Strathman know about your dishwasher experience on Facebook (Jenn Strathman - WEWS) and Twitter (@JennStrathman). Have you had problems?