Little-Known Home Danger: Dryers

Many people use clothes dryers in their homes all the time but, reports CBS News Correspondent Susan McGinnis, they can be more of a fire threat than you might think.

McGinnis points out on The Early Show that dryers cause more than 15,000 house fires every year.

This is the first in a series of broadcasts on fire safety during National Fire Prevention Week. The second concerns fire safety devices for homes.
And those who've lived through them, such as Kelly Peterson, say they can happen in an instant.

"It's a household appliance," Peterson told McGinnis. "You don't think of it as something that is deadly."

But her dryer started a fire that engulfed her house.

"It just went up in flames," she says. "It just ignited."

Peterson had been drying a small load of clothes, when she smelled something burning.

"And I ran to the basement," she recalls, "and the dryer was smoking; smoke was coming out the back of the dryer."

Peterson grabbed her two daughters and ran outside. By the time the fire department got there, her house was destroyed.

"Everyone I talked to could not believe the devastation that was caused by a dryer," she observes. "We lost everything. I mean, we literally had the clothes on our backs and that was it."

Peterson says you can never be too careful: "I will never, ever leave the house or go to bed with the dryer running. To think that families are at risk because they just don't know, is the scariest thought of all."

Every year, McGinnis says, dryer fires cause millions of dollars in property damage, and injure hundreds of people.

That could leave many homeowners wondering if their dryer could be at risk and, warns safety engineer John Drengenberg, "Depending on the factors, a dryer fire could happen in any home."