With growing number of related fires, a warning to check your bathroom exhaust fans

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Firefighters are warning about the fire dangers of dusty and clogged bathroom exhaust fans, as the numbers increase(WSYX/WTTE)

Firefighters are sharing a warning after several fires in Westerville were caused by overheating bathroom exhaust fans.

"It is one of our leading causes of fires here in Westerville," said Westerville Fire Chief Brian Miller. His safety message has to do with bathroom exhaust fans a potential fire hazard in your home.

Miller says particles from toilet paper and other items get pulled into the fan, creating a dirty environment and potentially a fire hazard.

"Sometimes that motor can overheat hot enough that it will ignite the lint and actually cause the plastic housing to catch on fire," said Chief Miller, "and sometimes that will catch on fire and drop to the floor and there may be rugs or clothes or towels on the floor that might ignite."

Columbus and Westerville fire departments were called to a fire related to one of these fans in northeast Columbus this week. Video captured by someone inside shows flames in the ceiling. Columbus fire crews say in 2018 they had nine structure fires due to bathroom vent fans, and in 2019 there were eight fires by just the start of April.

It isn't just a safety issue; of those eight fires, Columbus Fire estimated about $330,000 of damage.

"A lot of times when we gets into the attic, we have to go in and pull all the ceiling out there’s insulation," Miller said.

He says many bathroom fans are only designed to run for about 20 minutes, not long periods of time. His hope is that people shut off the power and start cleaning their fans. He also advises listening to your fan.

"When you turn the fan on it is kind of slow to start up or it makes a rattling sound or the worst is it doesn’t make any sound at all and that means that the motor is already seized up."

Not all vents are the same, particularly some newer models so take a look at the manual with yours.