A MUM of four was forced to flee her home when her Hotpoint tumble dryer caught fire after it had been modified by Whirlpool to fix a fault.
Jemma Spurr, 33, from Hampshire was at home with three of her children – Amelia, 5, Freddie, 2, and Amber, 1, when her dryer burst into flames.
Jemma, pictured with daughter Amber, was at home with her kids when her tumble dryer caught fire
The blaze even damaged her fridge, freezer and washing machine beyond repair and as they were low on cash and had no home insurance they were left without vital appliances for five weeks.
The dryer was one of 3.5million machines recalled by Whirlpool, which owns Hotpoint and other white goods manufacturers, in October 2015.
Over 1.7million appliances have been modified by the firm to fix a fault, while there are still up to 500,000 fire-risk tumble dryers potentially still in people’s homes.
Today, Which? revealed that it has spoken to 30 people who have said that their “fixed” tumble dryers have caught fire, produced smoke or the smell of burning.
Is your dryer on the faulty list?Here’s how to know if your dryer is on the faulty list:
Whirlpool, which owns the Hotpoint brands, says it has identified a potential concern with two types of tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015.
The affected brands are:
Non-affected machines will have a green sticker on the inside of the dryer door or reverse of the machine.
If your machine doesn’t have a green sticker, you need to check if it’s faulty. You can do this by locating the serial code and model number (found on the back of the dryer or on the back of the dryer door) and entering it onto the online checkers at safety.hotpoint.eu or safety.indesit.eu.
The consumer group says in some cases this appears to be as a result of fluff catching on the heating element – the very issue the modification was designed to fix.
Whirlpool claims that there have been no reports of modifications being uneffective.
But for Jemma, the blaze on her machine, which had been modified two years previously, had a devastating impact.
‘Black smoke was pouring out and I could see flames’
“I’d dropped my eldest at school for the day and I came home and started doing some housework when I thought I could smell something funny.
“I was hoovering at the time so thought it might be that, but it wasn’t, so I carried on.
“It was when I went into the kitchen and realised the smell was stronger that I opened the connecting garage door and thick, black smoke came pouring out – the smell was horrific and I could see flames coming out.”
At this point, the self-employed beauty therapist slammed the door shut and ran to get her kids out of the house.
Jemma Spurr Jemma’s tumble dryer caught fire causing damage to her garage and home
Once safely away from her home, she called 999 and the fire brigade rushed to put out the blaze.
It turned out that the dryer sparked the blaze, according to a fire report.
While it was in use at the time, Jemma says she hadn’t noticed anything unusual and that she always cleaned the filters.’It could have been a different story’
“The fireman said if it had been five minutes longer it would have been different story.
“Our gas pipe and boiler was really near the tumble dryer, so if that had exploded it could have been so much worse – my neighbour is a childminder and she had kids in the room next to our garage.
“It’s not worth thinking about, what could have happened.”
Jemma’s husband was left to clean all of the smoke damage
But while no-one was thankfully hurt, the blaze has had a lasting impact on Jemma.
“It’s impacted my anxiety more than anything. If I smell burning I’m constantly checking to see where the kids are.
“I also have to go through a regimented pattern now before I go to bed, to make sure everything is switched off.”‘Everything in the garage was ruined’
The blaze also damaged everything in the garage including Jemma’s baby’s pram, and son Louis’, 14, sports equipment, as well as husband Jay’s, 39, tools and electrical items.
“Everything in the garage was ruined,” said Jemma. “The whole garage needed gutting and there was also slight smoke damage in the kitchen.
“The house stank for weeks. And because they had to turn off the water, gas, and electricity supply, we had to move into a hotel.
“We spent about a week in a hotel, and then another two weeks in accommodation.”
The fire and smoke damaged everything in the garage from the family’s fridge and freezer to their DIY tools
This was back in September 2018, but Jemma and her family’s ordeal didn’t end there.
Jemma says when they moved back into their home – which they privately rented – they had to clean everything themselves and had to rely on friends and family for the basics.’We had to beg, borrow and steal to replace our fire damaged items’
“Everything we did, we had to beg, steal and borrow to replace these items.
“We had to have friends doing our washing for us, as we had nowhere to wash and dry and clothes.
“My mum offered to buy us a new washing machine but I’m too proud so I said no. Luckily I had some money aside and managed to get a secondhand washing machine.”
A Whirlpool spokesperson said: “The safety of consumers is our number one priority and we thoroughly investigate all incidents as soon as they are reported to us.
“But, you will appreciate, we are unable to comment on individual cases.’’
Jemma Spurr The children’s bikes were damaged in the blaze
BBC Watchdog first warned back in April 2018 that modified tumble dryers may still be at risk.
Which? is now calling on Whirlpool to urgently trace the fire-risk tumble dryers that are still in people’s homes.
It is also urging the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), which is run by the Government, to publish the results of its investigation into Whirpool.
The OPSS wouldn’t give The Sun any indication on when its findings are likely to be published.
‘Serious questions remain unanswered’
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products, said: “The regulator’s investigation cannot continue to drag on when serious questions remain unanswered about Whirlpool’s approach to the tumble dryer scandal.
“It’s very concerning that hundreds of thousands of at-risk machines are still in people’s homes, and that there is still uncertainty over whether the repair programme actually works.”
A Whirpool spokesperson added: “We have total confidence in the tumble dryer modification, which was extensively tested before and after being implemented.
“We thoroughly investigate all concerns relating to our products as soon as they are reported to us. We can confirm there have been no reported incidents where the modification has proven to be ineffective.
“We have been unable to fully investigate the allegations made by Which? as it has failed to provide essential details to support its claims, despite repeated requests for this information.
“We cannot therefore offer a considered response to Which?’s claims, and we question the reliability of its research methods.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “The Government’s top priority is to keep people safe, which is why manufacturers selling white goods in the UK must meet some of the strictest safety laws in the world.
“The Office for Product Safety and Standards is reviewing the corrective actions taken by Whirlpool, including reviewing information shared by Which? and BBC Watchdog.
“Consumers should always follow manufacturer’s instructions, including thoroughly and regularly clearing out the lint tray of tumble dryers.”
Anyone who believes they may have an affected appliance should contact Whirpool immediately on 0800 151 0905 and they can receive the modification within a week.
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An investigation by Which? in December 2016 found that Whirlpool tumble dryer customers could wait a YEAR for repairs or replacement.
Whirlpool says there’s no current waiting list for modifications and adds that any repairs will be carried out for free.
But it’s not just tumble dryers, one family say they’re lucky to be alive after a Hotpoint dishwasher fire left them homeless after a major house blaze.
Meanwhile, an expert said in November 2018 that the Grenfell Tower blaze was probably caused by overheating in the wiring of a Hotpoint fridge freezer.
Watch this Hotpoint tumble dryer as it catches fire in the middle of
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