APPLETON – A basement fire in Appleton is getting the attention of fire officials not necessarily because of the damage, but the suspected cause, a dehumidifier.
A recall on millions of dehumidifiers reminds homeowners of the issue.
Andy Vander Heyden, homeowner, says he and his wife were gone for about an hour.
“We heard the smoke alarms going off. I tried to look through the window. It was completely black. So I ran to the back door, opened up the back door. I couldn’t see a foot in front of my face, black smoke rolling out,” said Vander Heyden.
Vander Heyden called 9-1-1. The Appleton Fire Department put out the blaze.
“Found what appeared to be a dehumidifier that was burning,” said Lieutenant Lee Kasten, Appleton Fire Department.
Gree Electric Appliances, a Chinese manufacturer has recalled about 2.5 million dehumidifiers sold under various brand names in the U.S. and Canada.
“As long as it’s running, it overheats, and eventually starts to smoke. And if it’s not unplugged, before too long it will eventually start smoking, and just burst into flames,” said Kasten.
Occupational Health and Safety reports more than 120 dehumidifier-related fires nationwide.
Kasten says because of the damage to the dehumidifier, it’s not known if it was on the recall list.
And at Ace Hardware of Appleton, dehumidifier sales are up.
“They don’t want to buy or repurchase the brands that have been recalled. And so they’re coming to us, and then buying what we have on the shelf,” said Ron Cox, Ace Hardware of Appleton Manager.
Appleton Fire will soon put a list of dehumidifiers in each truck.
“If it’s part of the recall, we can let them know. This way we can check for them, and try to prevent fires before they begin,” said Kasten.
Vander Heyden says no one was hurt. Two cats had to be rescued. He says it will be months before his sooty house will once again feel like home.
“If you have a dehumidifier, and you haven’t thought about it, definitely go out on the internet and search the model number, and make sure it’s not a recall for it because, I tell you first hand, it’s the last thing you want to happen,” said Vander Heyden.
We checked other areas. Grand Chute, Fond du Lac, and Green Bay have reported dehumidifier fires in recent years.
If you want to find out if you have a dehumidifier on the recall list, click here.