A Wauwatosa family’s dishwasher caused a fire shortly before Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the family was able to put the fire out before it did much damage.
But it is a cautionary tale to check appliances and whether they may be part of a recall.
After dinner on Nov. 26, Erika and Joe Prusha of Wauwatosa filled the dishwasher and went on with their typical evening activities. Not more than 20 minutes later, the dishwasher was engulfed in flames.
This Bosch dishwasher caught fire on Nov. 26 in the kitchen of a Wauwatosa home. (Photo: Submitted)
Erika was giving a bath to the youngest of their four children while her husband, Joe, was in the living room with their 11-year-old son. Joe heard the smoke alarm going off and discovered smoke and flames, Erika said.
“Luckily, we had a fire extinguisher under the sink, and he was able to put out the fire,” she said.
Their 9-year-old daughter, June, an aspiring writer, wrote about “the scariest night of her life” in a story. June wrote that she was in her room with her kitten when she heard the smoke alarm. Her mom told her and her siblings to get their shoes on to go outside to the car where it was safer.
“The firefighters kept on coming in and out, in and out, and I just became colder and colder,” June wrote.
The family’s Thanksgiving plans weren’t ruined, but there was extra cleaning involved.
The Bosch dishwasher was in the kitchen when they bought the home two years ago.
Erika said the fire department determined the fire started in the dishwasher’s control panel.
When she called Bosch, the representative only asked for a model number and didn’t mention any recalls.
A list of recalls
But according to a Bosch representative, the BSH Home Appliances Corp. issued a voluntary recall on Jan.15, 2009, for certain Bosch and Siemens dishwashers that were manufactured in the United States between May 1999 and July 2005 and sold in the U.S. and Canada. BSH identified that an electrical component in certain dishwashers may overheat, causing a potential fire risk. The 2009 recall affected 522,000 dishwasher units.
On Oct. 1, 2015, a safety recall was issued to replace the power cords on certain models of Bosch, Thermador, Gaggenau and KenmoreElite brand dishwashers sold through appliance and specialty retailers in the U.S. and Canada.
The dishwashers were manufactured from January 2008 through December 2013. On Oct. 19, 2017, BSH voluntarily expanded the 2015 safety recall to replace the power cords on certain models of Bosch, Thermador, Gaggenau, Kenmore and Jenn-Air brand dishwashers sold through appliance and specialty retailers in the U.S. and Canada. The dishwashers were manufactured from September 2012 through January 2015.
BSH identified in both instances that the power cord can overheat, posing a fire hazard. For the 2015 recall, 194,291 dishwashers in the U.S. and Canada were affected. For the recall expansion in 2017, 469,000 dishwashers were affected in the U.S. and Canada.
A fire in Brookfield
After the ordeal in Wauwatosa, Erika Prusha received a message from a homeowner in Brookfield. Rebecca Wilson’s family had a house fire last February. The Wilson family ran their Bosch dishwasher at night when they went to sleep and awakened to the sound of a fire alarm on the first floor.
“There were flames up to our ceiling,” Wilson said.
Her husband put out the fire quickly with an extinguisher while Rebecca gathered her three young kids to take them to safety. The fire department said their quick actions spared the fire from being much worse.
“We were very lucky the counter and cabinets didn’t ignite,” she said.
The fire department concluded the fire was caused by a faulty dishwasher.
The Bosch dishwasher came with the purchase of the house in 2008. They contacted the previous owners, who told the Wilsons they had not been notified of any recalls by phone or by mail.
“They (the homeowners) were just as surprised as we were that the Bosch was recalled for the control panel fire,” Rebecca Wilson said.
Both Wilson and Prusha hope Bosch will find all the defective dishwasher owners before more fires happen.
“I don’t know how they are notifying people, but it is not effective,” Prusha said.
How are recalls communicated?
Lore McKenna, director of corporate communications for BSH Home Appliances Corp., said BSH is “committed to the highest standards of safety, quality and craftsmanship. She added that the company takes its customers’ safety seriously.
In the instance of a recall, BSH Home Appliances works together with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to spread the announcement to consumers, using all available means of communication.
This includes, but is not limited to, notifications sent to all registered product owners, distribution of the recall announcement in a news release shared across a national news wire, notifying dealers and retailers directly, providing posters for display in retail locations, posting information to social media channels, sharing information through advertisements placed in media, posting information on the brand website, setting up a toll-free hotline for consumers, information posted on the consumer product safety commission website and more.
“Our action in announcing the safety recall here in the United States and Canada demonstrates our commitment to the safety of our consumers,” McKenna said.
Learning more about fire safety
Wilson and Prusha are upset that not everyone was notified about the recalls. Both homeowners stated they would have taken preventive measures had they known there was an issue with their dishwashers.
Both said they learned a lot about fire safety in the wake of the fires. Wilson was alarmed her children didn’t wake up when their the smoke alarm went off.
She said her family now has a digital alarm system that links to the home and goes off in all the rooms. The Wilson family also purchased several fire extinguishers and a fire ladder.
“We obviously take it very seriously,” she said.
The Prushas ordered several more fire extinguishers. Coincidentally, Erika’s father, a former firefighter, works with her uncle, the owner of Kirchner Fire Extinguisher, based in Illinois.
“You think of smoke alarms, not necessarily having a fire extinguisher,” Erika Prusha said.
Wilson encourages people — whether renters or homeowners — to find the model numbers on appliances and do a recall check when they move in.
McKenna echoed Wilson’s suggestion, and also suggested visiting CPSC.gov to check for any recalls.
She also suggested consumers always register their household appliances to enable manufacturers to notify them of recalls.
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