Dryer Fires – Is Recovery Possible

Article by: Vincent Rochon, P.Eng and Co-CEO.

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Dryers cause a large number of fires in single family dwellings. They also cause significant damage because they are often left unattended and are usually in unfinished rooms with exposed wood framing and plastic vapour barrier.

Statistics from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office indicate that there are between 300 and 400 reported dryer fires every year.

There are several causes for dryer fires, but many experts simply classify most (or all) of these fires as lint fires. In some cases, the dryer is never thoroughly examined and x-rays are used to reduce costs so that the expert does not have to bother with the messy job of opening the dryer. Even if the expert discovered a manufacturing defect in an x-ray, it is already too late to mount a successful subrogation.

Recovering the costs associated with the damage caused by a dryer fire is possible, but a proper and thorough scene investigation must be completed after the fire (in accordance with NFPA 921, “Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations), by a qualified and experienced forensic engineer.

The fire scene must be properly processed and the origin determination must coincide with the location of the dryer. A proper origin determination will include one or more of the following:

1. A competent fire pattern analysis;

2. A technically accurate arc mapping analysis;

3. Witness information; and

4. A technical analysis of fire dynamics.

The dryer must also be properly documented and preserved. The basics include documenting whether the dryer was properly energized (most electric dryers operate at 240 volts and gas dryers operate at 120 volts), whether it was operational at the time of the fire and whether it was properly installed and maintained. It is also vital to preserve a sample of the dryer contents.

So, it is possible to successfully subrogate against a dryer manufacturer, if the fire scene is properly documented and the physical evidence is properly preserved.

Pulling a dryer out of a fire scene and sending it to an expert will never lead to a successful recovery of your loss.

A mechanical dryer fire caused by the drum rubbing against the enclosure.
A pin entered the element chamber and shorted out the elements.
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