Thursday, 19 January 2012

Important things I've learned recently

1. Large appliances can go wrong.

Last week our dishwasher suddenly burst into flames.  It has always worked perfectly and there was absolutely no indication that there was anything wrong with it.

Please, please never leave your dishwasher, washing machine or tumble drier on when you are out or in bed.  This doesn't make it less likely to catch fire, but it gives you precious time to react.  Fortunately this happened in the evening and we were all wide awake.  We noticed the strange smell and found the fire before the smoke detectors went off.

2. Most people don't have one of these.

If we hadn't had one, I doubt very much that we'd have any kitchen left at all, and we'd probably have lost the attic rooms and maybe the roof too.  Fire spreads incredibly quickly and, from the moment you dial 999 until the fire engines arrive, every second seems like an hour.

The one in the photo is a replacement for the one we used.  It cost £20 from Homebase.  Buy oneThis entire sentence is a link to make it easy for you.

3. Panic and fear affect you in strange ways.

Ewan's first thought was to wet a towel from the bathroom to smother the flames, then he remembered that we have a fire extinguisher.

It was attached to the kitchen wall in our last house, but in the 7+ years we've lived here we had never got around to putting it in the kitchen.  Instead it has remained in the basement of Johnshaven Stores.

Ewan's fear filled brain told him that the 'kitchen fire extinguisher' was in the basement (and he knew exactly where) so he ran down to get it, passing THREE other fire extinguishers on the way - one in his office and two at the top of the basement stairs for use in the shop.

4. Fire Fighters are wonderful.

Our local fire station is staffed by reserve fire fighters.  They are paged at home, have to get themselves to the fire station and assemble together before the fire engine can set off.  They were super efficient, caring and kind.  I can't praise them highly enough.

Seeing them inside your smoke filled house with breathing apparatus on is a very scary experience.  Believe me, you don't want to experience it for yourself.

5. Lots of people run their machines at night.

Having posted about our fire on Facebook, comments from my friends have shown that putting a dishwasher on last thing at night is the norm in many homes.  There seem to be 2 main reasons for this:

1. Convenience - to be sure to include the last coffee mug or wine glass of the evening.
2. Cheaper electricity tariffs at night, combined with timers on the appliances.

The second of these really concerns me.  I read the following on the USwitch website regarding Ecomony 7, the tariff that gives you cheaper electricity overnight.  "To make the most of Economy 7 it helps if appliances like your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer have a timer so that you can run them overnight, when your electricity is cheaper."  This advice is beyond irresponsible.

I am so angry about this that I'm going to write to my MSP and MP about it.

6. Fires in large appliances are not as rare as you may think.

Since posting about this on Facebook I have been shocked at how many friends, or friends of friends, this has happened to.  Dishwashers, washing machines and tumble driers are all causes of fires in the home.  One insurance assessor who came to look at the damage said that he's seen countless dishwashers that have caught fire at the back where the insulation material has overheated.  Our fire was entirely at the front electrical panel.

The following is taken from the Electrical Safety Council's website

Detailed analysis of the most recent annual fire statistics for Scotland has revealed:
  • every week two families suffer fires in their home due to a faulty washing machine or dishwasher
  • a defective light left switched on causes a fire in a Scottish home every ten days
  • each fortnight a short circuit or other electrical problem with a television causes a domestic fire
  • one in eight of all accidental domestic fires in Scotland are caused by faulty appliances or leads in the home

7.  Soot gets everywhere

Abso-blooming-lutely-everywhere!  Inside cupboards, all over the ceiling & walls and inside electrical appliances, thus turning them into fire hazards as well.  You can't adequately clean the inside of a toaster or the element of a kettle, and the carbon in the soot coming into contact with electrical parts of small appliances can be disastrous.

8. Friends are invaluable

On the night of the fire our children stayed with friends.  Knowing we'd be up half the night trying to deal with some of the mess, they also got them organised and sent off to school in the morning.  The same friends have let us use their washing machine (when they are at home, of course) until we have a replacement.

Other friends have also offered to do some washing and to roll up their sleeves and help with the clean up operation.  One friend has worked unpaid in Starfish Studio to give me time to order replacement items, and another sent the most beautiful bunch of roses to cheer us up.

I'd like to publicly thank them all.  You are all wonderful people.

9. These things don't just happen to other people.

Well actually they do... until they happen to you.



  1. Oh heavens! What a fortunate escape you all had. I'm so glad you are all safe. I'm afraid to say that most of our machines run at night too, mainly because of electricity charges. We are obviously going to have to review that particular habit.
    Reserve firefighters are the unsung heroes of many small towns that are too far away from larger full time stations.
    I'll do my best to pass on your cautionary tale.

    Stay safe and I hope your life gets back to normal soon

  2. I came upon your blog by happy accident when looking at your photos of Johnshaven. (which are just lovely) What a lesson to us all. I always have run my machines at night but never again. Many thanks.


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