Report: "Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines"
Author: John R. Hall, Jr.
Issued: September 2012
This report is an overview of home structure fires involving clothes dryers and washing machines and includes statistics by factor contributing to ignition, item first ignited and area of origin.
In 2010, an estimated 16,800 reported U.S. non-confined or confined home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines (including combination washer/dryers) resulted in 51 civilian deaths, 380 civilian injuries, and $236 million in direct property damage.
Washer and dryer fires were mostly level from 1980 to 1998, with only a slight decline in the first years of the period to break the pattern. After some volatility during the transition years as NFIRS Version 5.0 was introduced, the estimates have settled into a new trend with wider year-to-year variations and a trend line slightly lower than the lowest levels of 1980-1998. Civilian injuries have stabilized in a range comparable to that seen in the 1990s. Direct property damage after adjustment for inflation is varying year to year but around a generally higher average then those seen prior to 1999.
In 2010, clothes dryers and washing machines accounted for 4.5% of all reported home structure fires, 1.9% of associated civilian deaths, 2.8% of associated civilian injuries, and 3.1% of associated direct property damage.
 All estimates are based on fires reported through local fire departments to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), scaled up to account for non-reporting fire departments. Analysis is done separately on fires reported as confined to cooking vessel, chimney or flue, fuel burner or boiler, incinerator or compactor, or trash. All estimates include proportional allocation of fires with equipment involved in ignition reported as undetermined or blank, as no equipment involved when not also coded with a non-equipment heat source, or as unclassified or unknown-type personal or household equipment. Some other published estimates may exclude some or all of these projections and allocations, which is tantamount to ignoring most reported fires in any discussion of equipment causes of fires. NFPA believes these alternative approaches result in severe under-estimates.
1Confined fires are fires reported as confined to fuel burner or boiler, chimney or flue, cooking vessel, trash, incinerator, or commercial compactor. For fires reported as confined fires, most data fields are not required in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). See Appendix for more details.