Austin fire highlights hidden laundry room dangers


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist JP HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on October 22, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 22 at 10:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Smoke started pouring out of Christi Finley’s house in the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood while her dog was trapped inside Tuesday afternoon.

"I was only 10 minutes away, but to think -- what could happen in ten minutes if he hadn't been there,” said Finley, referring to her neighbor Chris Apollo Lynn.

Lynn saw the smoke and rushed over to make sure Finley wasn’t home. When he didn’t see her car in the driveway, he realized her dog was still stuck inside.

“I unlocked the door," Lynn recounted. "The dog, Lilly, was right there barking, and I grabbed her."

When firefighters arrived they discovered the smoke was coming from her dryer.

Battalion Chief Thayer Smith says there have been 20 fires in Austin this year caused by lint.

“It's a significant problem," Smith said. "[We see it] several times a month, easily."

He said it’s extremely important to check your outdoor vent at least once a year and make sure the screen is clear of lint, so the heat can escape.

However, in Finley’s case, the culprit wasn’t a clogged vent, it was a kinked coil.

“Although I was checking for lint at the bottom, there was still a huge collection of lint in the dryer tube,” said Finley. She had her dryer pushed up against the wall, causing the coil to bend.

Since the coil was bent the lint couldn’t escape through the outside vent. The heat caused the clothes inside the dryer to catch on fire.

Smith said if your dryer does overheat, do not try to open it.

“What you're going to do is give it oxygen, and if you have a smoldering fire, you're going to spread it," he warned.

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