Family homeless after Indesit tumble dryer causes fire

The destroyed tumble dryer Image copyright Chelsea Garnham
Image caption The damaged tumble dryer which investigators believe started the fire

A family from Surrey are homeless after a fire, started by their Indesit tumble dryer, destroyed their property just weeks after they had contacted the manufacturer.

Susan Garnham from Guildford spotted flames coming the back of the machine on Saturday afternoon, and fled the property along with her husband and son.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service investigators found that the fire started in the tumble dryer before spreading across the kitchen area and the rest of the property.

The family had been in touch with the parent company Whirlpool about their Indesit machine since last December, after it announced that that a "significant" number of Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit machines would need to be recalled because of concerns they could cause a fire.

The company said that "excess fluff", on machines bought between April 2004 and October 2015, could catch on the heating element and start a blaze. Some five million affected dryers were sold in the UK, and the company admitted in January that owners faced a lengthy wait for a repair.

In a statement it said "We investigate all reported incidents thoroughly. In this particular case, our engineer will visit the property on Thursday 4th February, to collect the machine and we will subsequently examine it in detail. However, until we have completed these investigations, you will understand we are unable to comment further."

Image copyright Chelsea Garnham
Image caption The family home was completely gutted by the blaze. The Garnhams were left only with the clothes they were wearing when they escaped the fire.

Susan's daughter Chelsea Garnham told BBC News that her mother was advised that their machine did not need to be recalled. "They told her it just needed a part" she said, and that she should "rest assured that she can still use the dryer whilst she was in the house."

"Mum has electrical insurance through British Gas and they notified her that her machine was on the refurbish list.

"She first tried to call Whirlpool at the end of December, but was told it would be a 4-8 week wait before an engineer could even make an appointment to see the machine.

"She rang again several times in January but was told the same thing. The appointment wasn't even to fix the part, it was just to confirm it was on the list. But now it is too late.

"On Saturday she saw smoke coming out of the machine, so she opened it and pulled the tumble dryer forward. That was when she saw the flames come out of the back and raised the alarm.

"My mum, dad and brother walked out of their house in the clothes they were wearing and had to watch the only home I have ever known them to live in burn down.

"My other brother was at work but he also lost everything. The first thing the fire service pulled out of the building was the tumble dryer, and it was completely destroyed."

Image copyright Chelsea Garnham
Image caption Surrey Fire and Rescue service tackle the blaze

Whirlpool is urging customers to visit its a dedicated website to discover whether their machines are affected. "For the repair programme, we are working on a first registered, first served basis" it said.

"This means that the earlier you register, the shorter you have to wait for a modification. Currently, if a consumer registers today, we will be in contact, on average, within 10 weeks to provide an estimated date for an engineer visit.

"Given the large number of dryers affected, we have experienced some delays in replying and we apologise for this inconvenience. We are currently working to address the situation and improve response times.

"Consumers can continue to use their tumble dryers, while waiting for a free modification. Until the modification has been made for those that require it, as an extra precaution we are asking that consumers do not leave their dryers unattended during operation (i.e. do not leave the house or leave the dryer on whilst asleep)."

Image copyright Chelsea Garnham
Image caption The property was completely destroyed and the local council has temporarily put the family in a hotel while the damage is assessed

Reporting by Hannah Henderson