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Surprising home hazards: Appliances that are most likely to start a fire; plus, ways consumers can protect themselves

An alarming number of appliance fires are caused by the units themselves as opposed to human error. ShopSmart magazine (September 2013) from Consumer Reports identifies six appliances that cause the most fires and tips on how to minimize the risk.

Ranges: Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven's bake and broil functions are the leading contributors to a range fire. Look for any unusual error messages on the range's digital display. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food and be sure to keep flammable items, including oven mitts, away from the cooktop. Kids should be kept at least 3 feet from the cooking area.

Clothes dryers: Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas can cause fires. Don't run dryers when asleep or when no one is home. Clean out the lint filter before each load and check vents annually for clogs. If using a gas dryer, install a carbon monoxide alarm near the laundry room to warn of leaks, which are poisonous.

Microwave ovens: Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly can lead to a potential fire. Some microwave fire victims said that the panel flashed the code "PAN" or "F2" as self-starting began. Don't store food or other items in the microwave. Look for unusual error messages on display panels and if the unit goes on by itself, try to turn it off.

Refrigerators: Fires can be caused by electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat, or by light bulbs that stay on when the door is shut. Be aware of unusual error messages on fridges with digital displays. Check that the lightbulb goes off when the fridge is closed by pressing the switch, which is usually inside where the door closes.

Dishwashers: Fires can be caused by circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry, creating a fire hazard. Don't run a dishwasher when asleep or when no one is home. If the rinse-aid dispenser needs constant refilling, call for a repair. Know which circuit breaker cuts power to the unit in case it starts smoking or goes up in flames.

Toasters and toaster ovens: Two potential fire hazards are units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting. Unplug toasters when not in use and inspect them for frayed power cords. Don't toast anything that doesn't easily fit into the slot.

Surprising home hazards: Appliances that are most likely to start a fire; plus, ways consumers can protect themselves 09/21/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 21, 2013 6:43pm]

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