It’s highly flammable, tinder dry and can be a disaster waiting to happen. Lint from household tumble dryers can cause house fires, and it has.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is urging people to clear their tumble dryers of the fluffy grey matter after every use.

FENZ community risk manager Lorna Biggam has been fighting and investigating fires for more than two decades and said it’s tragic that something so simple can cause the loss of a family home.

As part of a demonstration for Seven Sharp, the fire crew at Ōtāhuhu Fire Station lit some lint collected from clothes dryers. The lint caught fire within seconds, and acrid smoke billowed from the grey pile.

Biggam pointed a thermal imaging camera at the fire and grimaced as the temperature reached more than 450C.

“It’s what we call a fine fuel, so it ignites easily,” she explained.

Biggam has seen the result of tumble dryer fires.

“[They are] devastating. Someone’s lost their home through something as simple as not cleaning out their lint tray. It’s tragic,” she said.

House fires are often preventable if the proper measures are taken.

Inside the station laundry, the clothes dryer was working its magic on some towels. Biggam stopped the cycle and used the thermal imaging camera again.

“What we saw outside was the lint igniting at 120 to 150 degrees. If we stop the dryer now, we can see it’s jumping to around 150 degrees.”

The clothes dryer was at the same temperature at which the lint ignited.

“[Lint is] really easy to ignite. There’s lots of oxygen in the consistency. So, once it comes in contact or is involved in fire, it goes really, really quickly.”

The big takeaway here is to clear your dryer of lint after every use. Don’t overload your dryer; allow it to complete its full cycle so it cools down. Also, make sure there’s enough space around the dryer for ventilation.

Insurance company FMG said other household appliances need special attention too — particularly in winter.

“Our whole home is full of risks,” FMG advice product manager Abby France said.

According to FMG stats, more than 25% of house fires start in the kitchen.

‘Looking while you’re cooking’

“One of the key things is ‘looking while you’re cooking’,” said France. “Making sure that we’re not having unattended cooking.”

Even small appliances like a slow cooker need care. France said to ensure they’re on a fireproof surface and not placed on a wooden chopping board or tea towel that could ignite.

According to FMG, 25% of fires are caused by wiring and electrical faults.

France said anything that heats or cools needs to be plugged directly into the wall.

She also suggested having an escape plan rehearsal during these school holidays, which includes setting off the smoke alarm so that kids know the sound and what it means.

People living in rural communities should note their Rural Address Property Identification (RAPID) number.

“Your RAPID number is how we find your house on a rural property when you ring 111,” explained France.

Biggam said it’s essential to get out and stay out if you have to dial 111 in the event of a fire.

“Get everybody out of the house. Leave the property, call 111, and stay out. Please don’t go back inside for personal items or pets.

“We want to know that everybody has evacuated that property safely.”