NORMAL — Normal Fire Department investigators have determined that the origin of a Sept. 8 fire on Augustine Way was likely a recalled dehumidifier that overheated.
An official determination will not be available until an engineer reviews the evidence to confirm that finding, the department said on Friday.
“We cannot reiterate this enough, if you have a dehumidifier in your home, you have to check to make sure it is not on the recall list. If it is, stop using it immediately and contact the manufacturer,” said Assistant Chief Mike Morrison.
At the time, NFD credited working fire alarms with alerting the residents, who were sleeping but escaped uninjured.
The fire caused extensive damage to the basement. The second story also sustained damage from heat and smoke that traveled via the laundry chute. The department did not release a damage estimate on Friday. The home is insured.
The department said millions of dehumidifiers under various brand names have been recalled in recent years, adding they are responsible "for hundreds of house fires and millions of dollars in damages."
The largest recall involves 6.7 million units manufactured by the brands Gree and Midea, companies that build and ship dehumidifiers to different retailers under numerous brand names, said NFD.
Between the two manufacturers, there have been more than 2,000 reported incidents of dehumidifiers overheating, resulting in about 450 fires and more than $19 million in property damage, according to the department, adding both recalls are due to a defect that causes the units to overheat, begin smoking, and eventually catch fire.
Said Morrison, “We know there are likely thousands of these recalled units still being used in people’s homes and we urge everyone to take this threat very seriously.”