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Household Fire Hazards

Rays and Rainbows

Out thrifting again (you just can't stay away), you find a beautiful old cut-glass vase. It probably isn't Waterford, but you don't care. It's big and heavy and you know it will look great on the new side table in your living room.

You bring the vase home, fill it with water and flowers, and place it on the table, which is located dead center under the picture windows in your living room. Your kids love the rainbows the sun creates when shining through the cuts in the glass, and delight when they fall on the upholstered sofa that sits near the table.

Cause for concern? Definitely! Water inside a bottle focuses the sun's rays to a very specific point -- a point concentrated enough to cause a fire.

How Dry I Am

Around the House

Dryer fires are amazingly common. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, they spark almost 16,000 fires annually, resulting in more than $84 million in property damages, about a dozen deaths, and more than 300 injuries.

A Fine Mess

Dryers that run noisy, that take too long to dry, and that make clothes feel really hot are fire risks. Don't keep running yours if you spot any of these warning signs.

Aunt Bea and family decide to stay with you for the summer. Instead of your usual four or five loads of wash a week, you're running about 20. Young cousin Betty Sue, however, is shouldering the lion's share of the work. It seems like she spends more time in the laundry room than outdoors, which is a sad state of affairs for someone who's just 11 years old, but she seems to enjoy her work. She also seems pretty competent at it, so you aren't hovering over her.

The last few loads of wash that Betty Sue has delivered to you are covered with dryer lint. You make a mental note to ask her about it, but it falls off your to-do list.

Cause for concern? You betcha. What little Betty Sue might not know is that she needs to clean out the dryer's lint trap before and after every load.

Lint buildup and improper venting are both concerns. Improperly maintained vents and screens impede the flow of hot, moist, linty air to the outdoors. Let it go for long enough, and the hot air can cause a fire.

Always clear lint filters before and after you run a dryer, and wipe away any lint that accumulates around the drum. Don't run your dryer when you're not home, and keep the vent pipes unobstructed. Check the outdoor vent flap regularly to make sure it's clear and working properly. They collect dirt and debris easily.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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