Family issues warning after 16-year-old dies in fire caused by dryer

Two years after losing their 16-year-old daughter in a house fire, a Missouri family is taking action.

In January 2017, Saylor Johnson was killed after her Harrisonville, Mo. home caught fire due to build up from the vent of the family’s clothing dryer.

A teenager, you worry about getting in a car accident or all those kinds of things. A clothes dryer is the absolute last thing you’d ever think about,” Saylor’s grandfather Larry Johnson told local reporters. 

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According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), approximately 2,900 house fires are caused by clothes dryers each year. While it’s recommended that people clean their lint trap after each load of laundry, many people aren’t aware that the build up that occurs in the dryer vent ductwork should be cleaned once a year.

Image via Facebook.

Fox4KC News reports that weeks before Saylor’s death, her mother Erika Chaney and stepfather Gary noticed their clothes dryer taking several cycles to properly dry their clothes, and was hot to the touch.

The USFA reports that dryer fires typically occur in the winter and reach their peak in January.

Shock is one thing. But you really get kind of angry when you find out what happened. This was so severe that it had been neglected for a really long time,” Johnson said.

Now, Saylor’s family and friends are committed to raising awareness of the importance of dryer maintenance to prevent another tragedy from occurring.

Saylor Johnson. Image via Facebook.

In a Facebook post that has been shared more than 6,000 times, Janean Bandley Lindner, a family friend of Saylor’s parents, shared photos from a woman who had come across her warning and heeded her advice.

Today after reading your post my husband checked the dryer tubing and it was totally packed with hard lint!” the message read. “He could not even poke his finger into it! I can only say thank you as I’m confident you saved our family from a dryer fire! I do laundry at night and often leave my dryer going when we go to bed. Our laundry room is downstairs under the bedrooms! If we would not have checked this I’m certain things could have ended in tragedy for our family.”


Dryer fire prevention tips 

  • According to the USFA, have your dryer professionally inspected and cleaned if you begin to notice it’s taking longer for clothing to dry
  • Make sure your outdoor covering vent opens when your dryer is running
  • Coiled-wire or plastic ductwork that resembles metal can actually accelerate fires and should be replaced with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct
  • Clean your ductwork at least once a year to prevent build up
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected once a year to ensure there are no leaks

Home smoke alarm safety

According to the USFA, not all smoke alarms are created equally. Photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms detect different types of smoke depending on the type of fire: Photoelectric detects flaming fires, ionization detects smouldering fires.

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Homes should be equipped with either a dual sensor smoke alarm or both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarm located wherever people sleep, outside of sleeping areas and on every level of the home.

Batteries in smoke alarms should be replaced annually and testing monthly. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years, and interconnected to one another so that when one sounds, they all sound.

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