Appliance fires are commonplace
May 23, 2013
Nancy Gold was on the phone in her kitchen in Tabernash when she noticed that two burners on her fairly new smooth-top stove were on high. She thought it was odd, as she couldn't remember turning them on. When she went to turn them off, she noticed the knobs were both turned off.
"I thought I had lost my mind! Even on high there's a (heat) limit, but the burners kept getting hotter and hotter!" said Gold, who tried to unplug the stove but it was too heavy for her to move alone.
She finally turned it off through the breaker box, then drove to work. Later that day, she called an appliance repairman. "He thought I was nuts. He had never heard of that happening."
Then she googled "Fridgidaire stove turns itself on" and that led her to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website (www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/). She discovered her stove had been recalled in 2009 for turning itself on and posing a fire threat, but because she hadn't returned the registration card, she had never been notified.
Like millions of other Americans, Gold hadn't filled out the registration card because she didn't want to be hounded by these companies or provide them with personal information. "Now I realize they are not just marketing tools. I'll start registering new appliances from now on."
Because of the recall, Fridgidaire sent the replacement part free of charge to Gold and is footing the cost of the repair done by Jim Carland, owner of Jimbo's Appliance based in Kremmling. Carland and his wife Debbie stay on top of recall lists of all the major manufacturers and offer free advice on recall issues.
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"I don't see a lot of appliance fires in my field," said Jim, "but I do recall repairs even if the appliance hasn't malfunctioned yet. Anything that plugs into an electrical outlet that has a heating element has inherent risks."
According to ConsumerReports.org, an organization that compiled years of data collected on the CPSC website, more than 15 million appliance fires have been recalled in the past five years for defects that could cause a fire. About half of the appliances were dishwashers, underscoring the fact that moisture and electronics are not a good mix.
With the increasing complexity of today's electronics with microcomputers and touchpad controls, there are a lot more things that can go wrong. In addition, many of the components are manufactured abroad where there are less stringent product safety requirements.
"Fortunately, I was home at the time and in the kitchen when this happened," said Gold. "It could have been very dangerous! I could've been sleeping!"
Consumer Reports offers the following ways to protect oneself from appliance fires:
• After buying new electronics, fill out the registration card and put it in the mail or register online. You need only provide your name, model number and contact information.
• Check for recalls at http://www.recalls.gov whether buying new products or moving into a home with existing appliances. If you experience a problem, report it on SafeProducts.gov.
• Inspect power cords. Don't route cords under carpets or furniture where they can become frayed or damaged.
• Check your home's wiring to make sure it is modern enough to handle the demands of today's appliances.
• Keep dryer vents clean of lint buildup and clean grease from the kitchen range hoods on a regular basis.