Appleton house fire prompts warning of recalled dehumidifiers

By Millaine Wells, Local 5 News

Published 08/18 2014 03:53PM

Updated 08/18 2014 05:40PM

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) - A common household item is being blamed for a weekend fire in the Fox Cities.

Now, the family involved is warning people to take notice of the millions of dehumidifiers that have been recalled.

They are not sure if their unit was part of a massive nationwide recall, but they are urging people to check their models before it is too late.

"It is just something out of a bad dream" says homeowner Andy Vander Heyden.

He heard his smoke detectors going off when he arrived home on Saturday.

"I ran to the back door, opened it up and could not even see a foot in front of me" he says.

The Appleton Fire Department went to work searching for the source of the fire.

"We went down to the basement and found it was what appeared to be a dehumidifier burning" explains Lee Kasten, Public Information Officer for the Appleton Fire Department.

"The house is a mess, the basement is just black. On the first floor there is soot on every single surface" Vander Heyden says.

The cleaning company says it could be several months before anyone can live in the home.

The family is hoping they can move back in before October when their new baby is due.

"We did set up the crib and a few other things. That is the saddest room to look at. You walk in there its blackened and it brings a tear to your eye" says Vander Heyden.

This is not an isolated incident in Northeast Wisconsin.

According to Kasten "Grand Chute has had a fire, Fond du Lac has had a fire, Green Bay believes there may have been two that they had that were part of this recall".  

Fire officials believe people are confused by this recall.

The dehumidifiers are made overseas by a company called Gree. However, it is not likely you will find that name on your unit.

"Gree makes these dehumidifiers for up to 13 different brands" Kasten says. Familiar names include Frigidaire, Kenmore and GE.

If your model is impacted, you need to unplug it immediately, even if it has been running fine for several years.

The Vander Heyden's plugged theirs in, seven years ago.

"You definitely do not want this to happen" Vander Heyden says. "It is a nightmare".

The Appleton Fire Department is putting laminated copies of the recall list in their rigs, so firefighters can check people's dehumidifiers when they are out in the community.

To check your model click here.


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