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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Exhaust Fan Ignites Fire in Laurel Home - PGFD Safety Tips

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief PIO, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

A Laurel, Maryland, home suffered significant fire damage and the family has been displaced after a fire started accidentally in a bathroom exhaust fan.  Just after 5:00 pm, Friday, December 7, 2018, firefighters responded to a report of a fire in a 2nd floor bathroom at a townhouse in the 7600 block of Woodbine Drive.  An investigation revealed that the fire originated in the ventilation fan located in the ceiling of the bathroom.  The fire spread into the attic area generating an estimated $50,000 in fire loss.  Fortunately there were no injuries.
Exhaust fans are found in most residences and many commercial properties to help prevent steamed up mirrors, damp walls, and fogged windows along with removing odors. However, they can also present a potential fire hazard if not cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. Fans, over time build up lint which can cause the motor to overheat and ignite the lint, plastic fan blades and the nearby combustible wood structure. The speed at which the lint builds up is a function of the amount of use and the amount of particulate in the air in which it operates.
These fans are not designed to last forever and many are original installs.  Older exhaust fans are not thermally protected. Thermal protection causes the motor to shut off should they seize and overheat. This safety feature has been available since the late 1970’s, but was not widely used until the early 1990’s. If you have a bathroom exhaust fan in your home, clean it twice a year.  If it starts to make noises or smells odd, it’s time to replace it.
The following photos demonstrate exhaust fans that need cleaning to prevent overheating and possible unintentional fire in your home.
Bathroom Exhaust Pic
Bathroom Exhaust Pic 2



·      Inspect and clean all bathroom exhaust fans as necessary and per the manufacturer’s recommendations, be sure to place on a regular cleaning schedule.

·      When cleaning, remove the fan cover to clean and remove lint from around the motor, paying careful attention to all air-flow areas.

·      Wash the fan cover in warm soapy water to remove all lint. If there is any mold growing, add bleach to the cleaning mixture. Make sure the cover is completely dry before putting it back up.

·      If some fans are not easily accessible for regular cleaning, or appear to have evidence of heat damage, or do not turn freely, they should be replaced with thermally protected units.

·      Please remember that bathroom fans should only be used for brief periods of time, such as during a shower. Many people run them excessively or even forget that they are on. Consider installing a timer switch instead of a manual switch to limit the unnecessary use of the fan. Turn off all fans as soon as they have done the job.

·      Consider replacing older models with new exhaust fans with thermal protection.

·      Turn exhaust fans off at night and before you leave the house.

Install 10-year smoke alarms and, if needed, a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home (Maryland Law) and consider installing smoke alarms in every bedroom and sleep with your bedroom door closed.

  • Many thanks from pgfdpio to countryside fire district, fire protection association case forensics John Hall, Soraya Mclaughlin on positively Naperville, mini mops and the Rancho Cucamonga fire district as contributors to this information.