How many house fires are caused by dryers? 2024

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
By:
Author picture
Edited by:
a burning clothes dryer

House fires can have extremely damaging consequences. In 2022, residential fires in the U.S. caused just under $11 billion in property loss, 10,320 injuries and 2,760 civilian deaths. The leading causes of accidental residential fires include cooking, heating equipment, electrical distribution and lighting equipment, and smoking. Clothes dryers and washers cause approximately 4% of all residential fires.

Key insights

There were 382,500 residential structure fires in the U.S. in 2022. This statistic includes fires in one- and two-family homes, as well as fires in apartments, multifamily housing structures and residential garages.

Jump to insight

Residential fires are most likely to occur between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. Residential fires are also more common during the colder months of November through March.

Jump to insight

House fires in 2022 decreased by 51% compared to 1980.

Jump to insight

Dryers (together with washing machines) cause 4% of house fires. The primary culprit for fires in dryers is failure to adequately clean, leading to ignition of dust, fiber or lint.

Jump to insight

House fires by year

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 360,000 home structure fires (those occurring in homes, apartments and other multifamily housing structures) in the U.S. in 2022. This represents a 51% decrease in the number of home fires since 1980.

General house fire statistics

House fires happen with the highest frequency between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., which makes sense given that cooking is the No. 1 cause of fires. Approximately 33% of all home fires occur during these hours. That said, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires are most likely to involve a fatality when they occur between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.

Residential fires are also more likely to occur in the colder months, likely because of the increased use of heating equipment.

Fires that occur during November, December, January, February and March are also more likely to involve a fatality.

Dryers are responsible for approximately 13,820 fires annually. Although dryers cause 4% of all home structure fires, they are responsible for less than 1% of home fire deaths.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, cooking was the leading cause of residential fires in 2021, causing 170,000 fires nationally. Data analyzed by the NFPA on home and residential fires between 2015 and 2019 produced a similar result, showing that cooking was the cause of nearly 50% of home fires.

How do dryers cause fires?

Not all fires involving dryers are caused in the same way, but the leading cause of such fires is a lack of proper cleaning.

The highest percentage of home dryer fires stem from the following:

  • Failure to adequately clean the dryer (32%)
  • Mechanical failure or malfunction (27%)
  • Electrical failure or malfunction (16%)

Accordingly, the items most likely to ignite first in a dryer fire are as follows:

  • Dust, fiber and lint (27%)
  • Clothing (25%)
  • Appliance housing or casing (12%)

The majority of dryer fires (78%) involved electric-powered appliances, while 22% occurred in dryers powered by gas. This is roughly proportional to the number of households that own a dryer powered by electricity (80%) and the number owning a dryer powered by gas (20%).

House fire safety tips

Perhaps the most important house fire safety tips are simply to be aware and to be prepared.

Being aware means understanding the primary fire risks in your home.

  • Cooking: As noted above, cooking is the primary cause of house fires. Don’t leave your stove unattended while in use, and turn off heating sources when they’re not in use.
  • Heating: Properly maintain heat sources like furnaces and fireplaces and exercise care when using space heaters. Keep flammable materials away from heating elements.
  • Electrical: Don’t overload your outlets with too many plugs. Keep an eye on electrical cords and plugs for signs of wear and tear.
  • Smoking: Avoid smoking indoors whenever possible. If you do smoke indoors, make sure you’re not doing so when you’re tired or drowsy and might doze off.
  • Dryer: Clean your clothes dryer regularly, making sure it’s free of dust and lint. Inspect electrical connections for signs of wear.

Being prepared means having a plan for what to do in case of fire.

  • Smoke alarms: Make sure you have smoke alarms on every floor of your home for comprehensive coverage. Test and replace batteries regularly.
  • Fire escape plan: Know the safest ways to exit your house in case of fire. Pick a meeting place where all family members will congregate if you ever do need to escape.
  • Safety equipment: Consider keeping a small fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Make sure you know how to use it.

FAQ

What is the No. 1 cause of house fires?

Cooking accidents are the leading cause of house fires in the U.S. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that there were 170,000 cooking-related fires in 2021.

What percentage of house fires are caused by dryers?

Dryers cause about 4% of house fires. Between the years of 2014 and 2018, dryers caused an average of 13,820 fires each year.

How do you prevent dryer fires?

Clean your dryer regularly, removing lint after every load. Failure to adequately clean is the No. 1 cause of fires involving clothes dryers.


References

  1. Hall, S. “Fire loss in the United States During 2022.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated March 28, 2024.Link Here
  2. Ahrens, M. & Maheshwari, R. “Home Structure Fires - Supporting Tables.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated March 28, 2024.Link Here
  3. Hall, S. “Home Structure Fires.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated March 28, 2024.Link Here
  4. “Fatal Fires in Residential Buildings (2018-2020).” Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Fire Administration. Evaluated Mar 28, 2024.Link Here
  5. Ahrens, M. “Home Dryer Fires.” National Fire Protection Association. Evaluated March 28, 2024.Link Here
  6. “Residential Building Fire Causes (2012-2021).” Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Fire Administration. Evaluated March 28, 2024.Link Here
  7. American Housing Survey. “2021 National - Heating, Air Conditioning, and Appliances.” United States Census Bureau. Evaluated April 2, 2024.Link Here

Figures