Local 12 Investigates: Dishwashers pose fire dangers

Local 12 Investigates: Dishwashers pose fire dangers (WKRC)


They’re often the last item you would think of when it comes to starting fires, but dishwashers are being blamed for causing fires that have claimed millions of dollars in damage and, sometimes, even lives. Local 12 Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman exposes Dishwasher Dangers and how you can protect you and your family.


It was a moment Dr. Mark Shannan will never forget.

"I was sitting in the chair right behind you, and my oldest daughter at the time, Audrey, came in and said, 'Dad, there's a fire in the kitchen," Dr. Shannan said, pointing toward the kitchen. "I just came around this way, came through the living room and the second that I got to about this point, I noticed that the flames and the smoke were coming right out of the front panel. "

The smoke was coming out the family’s dishwasher.

Dr. Shannan recorded the moment on his cellphone camera. You can hear how surprised tone, as he narrates the moment. "I mean, it's smoking. Are you seeing this?


Like many of us, Dr. Shannan had no idea a dishwasher could be the source of a fire.

"It was not even on my radar," he said.

But increasingly dishwasher fires are “on the radar” for fire experts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says there are approximately 500 fires each year caused by faulty dishwashers.

On the CPSC website, there’s a long list of DISWASHER RECALLS, too. CLICK HERE for CPSC Recalls.

According to the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office, from 2005 to 2015, there were 212 documented cases of dishwashers causing fires in the state of Ohio. In the first ten months of 2016, there were 7 dishwasher fires reported. Kentucky officials say they don’t track that number. Indiana fire officials did not respond to our request for figures. But these are official reports and, experts say, many of the fires are missed or not reported at all.


Mike Corrigan, an appliance service manager, demonstrated the issues by unscrewing the cover of a dishwasher, revealing the inner workings of an appliance most of us take for granted.

“This is your control board,” Corrigan said, pointed to a black box with computer-like connections.

“This is where you have 90% of your problems is this here will get hot and start to overheat, then this melts and catches on fire.”

The other area of concern lies below the dishwasher and behind a floor cover.

"Lots of times what they do is they get these wire nuts the incorrect size. And when these are incorrect, the wires inside of here will get loose and start to spark and arc and when they do that, that's when they get hot and start to melt these wire nuts then these wires catch on fire."

But the only way to see either problem is to remove key covers of your dishwasher and for that, Corrigan and nearly everyone else says you need to find an expert. So, how do you know if you have a problem lurking in and around your dishwasher?

Experts say ALWAYS have an expert install your dishwasher. If you weren’t involved in buying or installing your dishwasher, service experts say have them come and inspect your appliances.

And check that RECALL LIST from CPSC.


Finally, as tempting as it is to start that wash cycle when you’re going to bed or heading out the door, Corrigan echoes the advice from nearly everyone.

"Don't do it,” Corrigan says, adding, “You shouldn't really run any appliances at all if you're not going to be home."

Dr. Shannon and his family were home when their dishwasher caught fire and he says he won’t ever run an appliance if he’s not there to make sure everything’s alright.

" From that point forward we have never used our dishwasher or our washer/dryer and then left the house,” he said.

If your dishwasher does what Dr. Shannon’s did, smoking and flaming, experts say turn the power off, or open the door immediately to cut the power to the appliance.

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