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Fire marshal: Check for recalled dehumidifiers

Check your dehumidifier ... as a fire hazard. Two Mitchell fires in the past two years have been connected to a recalled brand of dehumidifiers that have caused millions of dollars in damage nationally, and officials say there could be more of th...

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Check your dehumidifier ... as a fire hazard.

Two Mitchell fires in the past two years have been connected to a recalled brand of dehumidifiers that have caused millions of dollars in damage nationally, and officials say there could be more of the problem products in the area.

In 2014, a fire broke out in the basement of a residential home in Mitchell. Then, earlier this week, a fire broke out in the basement of Tickled Pink, a clothing store located on Mitchell's Main Street.

The two fires have one thing in common: they were both caused by a dehumidifier manufactured by Gree Electric Appliances, Inc.

"In Mitchell, as far as I know, we've had two fires in regards to dehumidifiers malfunctioning," said Mitchell Fire Marshal Marius Laursen.

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After the 2014 fire occurred, Laursen and his team conducted an investigation and discovered the dehumidifier was recalled, along with a long list of others.

One of the brands on the list of recalls includes Soleus Air, which was used in the basement of Tickled Pink. The businesses' owner, Megan Sabers, closed her boutique for an "unknown amount of time" after the Tuesday fire, according to a Facebook post. The dehumidifiers were placed in the store's basement to dry it out after a Main Street water main break occurred the week before, according to owner of the building, Terry Sabers.

Terry Sabers, who owns the dehumidifier that started on fire, said he purchased them four years ago after a thunderstorm drenched Mitchell in rain and hail.

"There were a lot of basements that were flooded ... That's when I bought this dehumidifier," Sabers said referring to the dehumidifier that caught fire in the Tickled Pink basement.

Like the two Mitchell fires, the millions of recalled Gree dehumidifiers were defective, causing the machines to overheat and catch fire.

The incidents began in July 2012 and caused nearly $4.5 million in property damage in reported incidents across the country, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Gree received multiple reports of the incidents and attempted to make design changes to fix the problem.

The recall for the dehumidifiers began in September 2013 and was expanded in January 2014 to include more models. Gree company sold more than 2.5 million units nationwide through several stores including Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe's, Menards, Sears and Walmart.

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Laursen said there may be several recalled dehumidifiers remaining in the area.

"If you've gotten dehumidifier in the last couple of years, I would go and check the brand and serial number and cross reference with the recall list," Laursen said.

Laursen said people can go to www.cpsc.gov to check the list of recalled dehumidifiers by Gree.

If they discover their dehumidifier is on the list, Laursen suggests taking it out of service immediately.

In March, Gree was forced into a settlement agreement and paid a $15.45 million civil penalty to the government. The charges state that Gree failed to report a defect and risk of serious injury to the CPSC, knowingly made misrepresentation to the CPSC staff during investigation and sold dehumidifiers bearing a UL safety certification mark knowing that the dehumidifiers did not meet UL flammability standards.

Sabers said he owns two more of the recalled dehumidifiers and he plans to look into how he can be reimbursed. He talked to several more people in area who also own dehumidifiers from Gree. He encourages everyone to take the fire marshal's advice and check their serial numbers so it doesn't happen to anybody else.

Overall, Sabers is happy nobody was hurt in the fire.

"We are extremely lucky that this is a concrete building and there was nothing flammable around it for 6 feet," Sabers said. "Otherwise, it could have easily started the whole building on fire."

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