CLEVELAND - In the hours before their Thanksgiving meal, it was firefighters and not family, who arrived at the Logans' home.
"She saw the smoke coming out of the kitchen, along with the flames," said Ken Logan.
Flames that charred the Logans' kitchen and filled their Kansas home with smoke. The blackened pieces that remain leave little doubt in their minds as to where this fire started.
"There's no question: It came from the dishwasher," said Logan.
The Logans are not alone in their kitchen close call.
Fire investigation reports we obtained don't zero in on a cause, but they do show a potential problem with homeowners and some investigators blaming dishwasher fires for smoke damage and even a death at an Oregon home.
It is an issue that spans the nation from Ohio to Arizona. With the help of Scripps stations across the country, 5 On Your Side found dishwasher fires in almost every state. A Tulsa homeowner said the dishwasher was so hot, it blistered the ends of her fingers.
One Lakewood homeowner thought she was just unlucky
"There was some flames coming out over here, Kirsten Craciun said, pointing to a picture of her damaged dishwasher.
Worried for her children's safety, Craciun grabbed the kids. Her husband grabbed the fire extinguisher and quickly put out the fire.
"We thought we just, you know, had some bad luck and it was sort of a one in a million situation," Craciun said.
5 On Your Side uncovered data showing the government knows about the problem
While homeowners are experiencing dishwasher problems one by one, the federal government knows about many of these reported incidents. Between March and November 2011, more than 260 complaints related to dishwasher incidents were logged with saferproducts.gov , a public website run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, more than half reported smoke or flames.
"Because it's (dishwasher) so close to the gas line for the gas stove. That was really scary to us thinking of what-if's," Craciun said.
While a few hundred potential disasters were made public in that online forum, our 5 On Your Side investigation uncovered that the CPSC knows of more than 1,600 reported problems with dishwashers in the last five years.
Those complaints simply aren't shared with the public unless you ask to see them. We asked for the documents, and found consumers reported a fire in 80 percent of those cases.
"A representative came out to the house and asked me a lot of questions," Melody Doe told our Phoenix Scripps station.
We have questions too. We want to know which brands are mentioned in those CPSC cases. The CPSC won't tell us until it gets permission from the companies involved. We've been waiting for six weeks.
The CPSC declined our request for an interview, instead issuing a statement. The agency said, "We care deeply about the safety of families impacted by dishwasher fire incidents and we have conducted numerous investigations into incidents reported to CPSC in recent years. To date, most of the fire or smoldering incidents were contained inside of the dishwasher, where the lack of oxygen and combustible materials prevented a larger incident from occurring. However, incidents of fire or overheating are a serious concern for CPSC, and will be investigated thoroughly."
There have been 15 voluntary recalls of dangerous or faulty dishwashers over the past two decades. You can search to see if yours is on the list at recalls.gov , and the CPSC encourages consumers to report safety problems at saferproducts.gov .
Consumers are taking action
While the government isn't pointing fingers at any brand, consumers are. They're posting on blogs like kitchenaidfire.com , which has dozens of complaints.
"This is a dangerous issue, a serious safety and health concern," said attorney Charles Fax, of Maryland.
That's why Fax filed suit against Whirlpool, a Michigan company which makes KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag and Sears brands.
Fax represents 11 people who say they've had serious damage from fires in dishwashers made by Whirlpool, which has until Feb. 15 to respond to the lawsuit.
Fax's clients not only want compensation, they want a recall because of what they consider a product flaw.
"This design defect in the control unit causes the wires inside to overheat and eventually burn," said Fax.
It is a defect consumers believe exists in Whirlpool machines, which account for about half of the dishwasher complaints on saferproducts.gov .
Fire officials say Oregon woman died after fire in or near dishwasher
Consumers are reporting problems like fire and smoke with more than just Whirlpool brand dishwashers.
While the other companies don't have as many complaints as Whirlpool, fire investigators believe a fire "in or near" a Frigidaire dishwasher killed an elderly woman in Oregon.
Consumers have also complained on the Safer Products site about Bosch and GE brands in smaller
numbers. GE is the brand that Ken Logan says caught fire in his home.
"You think, it's got water how can it catch on fire? It did," Logan said.
It's the same question Craciun is asking. Without any answers, consumers are simply changing their habits.
"Now we never run the dishwasher when we're either leaving the house or going to sleep," Craciun said.
Several homeowners also told us they believe a fire extinguisher allowed them to control the problem before it caused damaged. Experts say you should also locate your circuit breaker so you can shut off power to the dishwasher immediately in the event of an incident.
In a statement Whirlpool said it "builds its dishwashers with, among many other state-of-the-art safety features, components that turn off power to the electronic control board in the extremely unlikely event that the control board begins to overheat. The safety features are designed to limit potential damage to the unit."
The company also said consumer safety and product quality are top priorities. Whirlpool is investigation incidents brought to the company's attention, and working with authorities. If you have a problem with a dishwasher made by Whirlpool Corporation, you can call the company at 1-800-422-1230.
GE issued a statement that said it, "takes pride in the quality and safety of its dishwashers. Product safety is a fundamental commitment at GE, and our appliances - including all GE dishwashers - meet applicable third-party industry safety requirements. GE investigates reported safety issues, and initiates corrective action when appropriate, including notifying consumers in cooperation with appropriate agencies."
The company also said many of the reported incidents have not been verified by the CPSC or other government agencies. The company encourages any consumer with a product question or concern to call the company at 1-800-626-2005.