Cleaning a dryer and its vent can save lives and property

Thinking it won't happen to you is just the type of thinking Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes is looking to avoid.

A pile of lint sits next to the lint filter on a clothes dryer
Cleaning a lint filter before each cycle of a clothes dryer is one way to prevent a fire caused by the appliance.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Tossing clothes in a dryer is rarely thought of as the match that lit the fire, though washers and dryers are responsible for around 15,000 fires nationwide a year.

“Air dryers are one of those items in your home that's basically out of sight out of mind. We don't think about it, most of it hides behind your dryer,” said Jim Smith, the Minnesota state fire marshal.

Thinking it won't happen is just the type of thinking Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes is looking to avoid as he talked about a few of the recent fires in the area involving clothes dryers.

Central Lakes College Child Care
A workers brings in an industrial vacuum cleaner to the Annie’s Childcare and Learning Center Thursday, Jan 5, 2023, to clean up after a fire behind a clothes dryer. The children were evacuated from the building while the fire was being extinguished by the Brainerd Fire Department.
Steve kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

On Jan. 5, Annie’s Childcare and Learning Center in Brainerd evacuated the building after a fire started in the dryer, and on Jan. 31, on the 13000 block of Three Mile Road, a family had a fire in their laundry room , which started in their dryer vent.

“Make sure that you take time to inspect your dryer vent, making sure it's not clogged and the pipe itself isn't damaged,” Holmes said. “When you're doing your laundry, you're cleaning the lint trap in your dryer regularly, so it's also not backing up into the dryer itself.”


Most tasks to prevent a dryer fire can be completed by a homeowner. And if one does occur, ensuring smoke detectors are working in the home can not only save property but can also save lives.

Both Holmes and Smith said the ribs in the accordion-style hoses often collect lint at a higher rate than the smooth metal tubes, restricting the flow of exhaust gases out of the house.

Read more
Heidmann’s case stems from an Aug. 29, 2020, incident when Pequot Lakes and Nisswa police officers were conducting a traffic stop of a third party along Highway 371 south of Nisswa.
Cameron Moser is charged with the 2021 murder of Bethany Anne Bernatsky.
According to the report, a 2018 Subaru Legacy was eastbound on the highway when it went into the ditch and flipped vertically
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident, reported at 11:06 a.m. Thursday, March 30, in Pike Bay Township, north of Cass Lake.

“The recommendation is to use a solid, metal hose,” Holmes said. “Non-ribbed, versus the typically coiled wire foil or plastic vent tube.”

They also recommend a dryer and its exhaust be installed by a professional, especially if the appliance is gas operated.

“From my experience, the main issue that would result in a dryer fire would be improper vent cleaning,” said Kendall Yde, a technician at YDE's Major Appliance Service in Brainerd. “A two-person household should be getting theirs cleaned every three to four years. And for every extra person in that household, you should take a full year off of that until you get down to about a year.”

If a dryer smells hot and is taking too long to dry, that usually shows a dryer starting to fill with lint on the inside. That’s a hazard that can cause an internal fire, Yde said.

“It's always a good idea to have a professional come annually or every other year, just to make sure that your dryer and ductwork are clean,” Smith said. “They'll also check all the connections around those pipes. We want everybody to be safe out there.”

Along with cleaning the lint trap after each use, the vent to the outside should be checked for obstructions. Especially those that vent outside the home in the wintertime.


“If it's taking longer to dry or if it's starting to smell really hot, uncharacteristically so, get it checked as soon as possible at that point,” Yde said.

Smith said a home should have a smoke detector in the utility room, to alert someone to a problem as soon as possible. He also recommends a carbon monoxide detector for those who use gas appliances.

“Our recommendation would be that you not leave clothes in the dryer running when you're not home or when you're sleeping,” Holmes said. “You're less likely to be aware of any problem until it's a big problem.”

Follow these simple safety tips to prevent a clothes dryer fire

  • Have a dryer installed and serviced by a professional. 
  • Do not use the dryer without a lint filter. Clean the lint filter before and after each cycle. 
  • Do not forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. 
  • Check the venting system behind the dryer to make sure that it is not damaged, crushed or restricted. 
  • Make sure that the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is operating.


TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
What To Read Next
Get Local