6 potential at-home fire starters


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Sometimes accidents can happen in your home that you’re not responsible for — say, for instance, your appliances catch fire thanks to a mechanical, electrical or design flaw.

ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, looked at data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2002 through 2009 and identified six appliances that cause the most fires in your home. (Tip: Always remember to register new appliances to be notified of service problems and check for recalls at Recalls.gov.)


1. Ranges

Cause: Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven's bake and broil functions

Tip: Look for unusual error messages on the range's digital display. Do not leave your range unattended when cooking. And keep flammable items, including oven mitts, away from the cooktop.


2. Clothes dryers

Cause: Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas

Tip: Don’t run if you’re not around. Clean out the lint filter before you use it and check vents annually for clogs. If you have a gas dryer, install a carbon monoxide alarm near the laundry room.


3. Microwave ovens

Cause: Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly. Be on the lookout for codes "PAN" or "F2" on the panel. Some people claim they saw that as self-starting began.

Tip: Don't store anything in the microwave. Look for unusual error messages on digital displays. If the unit turns on by itself, try to turn it off. Know which circuit breaker controls it in case it won't turn off using the controls.


4. Refrigerators

Cause: Electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat or light bulbs that stay on when the door is shut

Tip: Be on the lookout for unusual error messages on fridges with digital displays. Check that the lightbulb goes off when the fridge is closed. You can do this by pressing the switch.


5. Dishwashers

Cause: Circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry

Tip: Only run when you’re home. If the rinse-aid dispenser needs constant refilling, call for a repair. Know which circuit breaker cuts power to the unit in case your dishwasher starts smoking or catches on fire.


6. Toasters and toaster ovens

Cause: Units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting

Tip: Keep toasters unplugged when you’re not using them. Inspect for frayed power cords. Don't toast anything that doesn't fit in the slot.