May 04

Add the dryer to the list for spring cleaning!

Posted on May 4, 2017 at 10:12 AM by Andrea Mantakounis

dryer lint
By Fire Chief Chris Martin

Spring has sprung and with it comes spring-cleaning. As you are washing and putting away the winter clothes and bedding, the Sterling Heights Fire Department suggests that you also add cleaning the dryer and venting system to your to-do list.

The buildup of lint in a dryer or the venting system is a common cause of fire in homes. According to FEMA:

  • An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
  • Failure to clean (34 percent) was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings. 
  • Dust, fiber, and lint (28 percent) and clothing not on a person (27 percent) were, by far, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Fifty-four percent of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings were confined to the object of origin.

Are you ready to start cleaning now?

Right off the bat, make sure to remove the lint from your dryer filter after every load. Please drive this point home with anyone else in your family who does laundry. There's a reason why dryer lint is so popular with campers as a fire starter, it's incredibly flammable! Cleaning off the filter is especially important when drying something that produces excessive lint like blankets or towels.

A lint-free filter allows the airflow to pass through it and dry your clothes more quickly. Not only will this reduce the fire hazard, it can save you time and money.

While you have the filter out, try this quick test. Take the filter and run hot water through it. If the water does not pass through the mesh, it may be due to waxy residue from dryer sheets. A dirty lint filter clogged with residue can restrict airflow through the dryer, causing the dryer to work harder and possibly overheat.

To fix this, wash the filter with hot, soapy water and scrub gently with an old toothbrush. Allow the filter to dry completely and then put it back in the dryer.

With the filter out, use a narrow brush to scrape along the sides of where the filter slides in. You’d be surprised what can end up there. This may stir up a lot of dust, wearing a dusk mask will help.

Narrow brushFilter area

With the lint filter clean, next move on to inspecting the dryer vent. By using a flashlight, inspect the area behind your dryer. You should be able to identify if you have an excessive buildup of lint on the back grate of the dryer, the surrounding floor or along the vent hose. If you can easily get to the end of your dryer vent outside your home, inspect the inside of the vent with a flashlight to identify any obvious buildup of lint.

Cleaning out the dryer or vents is another story. It is always best to hire a professional, but if you feel that you are up to the challenge and have the time and tools, it is certainly something that many can handle on their own.

Start by moving the dryer away from the wall to access it. Unplug the machine from the wall. Most of the time, the back grate of the dryer can be cleaned off with a shop-vac, however if you have a significant buildup of lint in the dryer, you may want to consult a professional to dismantle and clean the unit.  

Back of dryer

Next move to where the vent hose attaches to the dryer.

The vent hose may be attached to the back of the dryer with a dryer hose clamp or duct tape, you will need to disconnect the hose from the dryer.


Once the dryer is disconnected from the vent hose, a shop-vac or dryer cleaning brushes (available at hardware stores in different sizes and lengths) can be used to remove lint from the hose. This part can get messy, clean slowly as to not stir up the dust.

Dirty Hose

If you have the ability to access the vent from outside the house and can easily dismantle the vent cover, a shop-vac or brush can be used to clean it out from that end.


When you are finished cleaning out the vent hose, proper reassembly of the venting system is very important. Remember, the purpose of the venting system is to remove the exhaust from the dryer safely to the outside. This exhaust contains carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas that has no odor or color. The venting system has to be tightly fitted to the back of the dryer properly to be safe.

All other connections between the vent, hose and dryer must also be properly sealed together and secure. Never use screws to put the venting system together because the screws act as a hook collecting lint inside the vent. Duct tape works well for holding the venting system together.

Use Duct Tape

Make sure that there are no crimps in the vent hose, (crimps can collect lint buildup and hinder exhaust flow) and that all connections stayed together after you plugged the dryer back in and pushed it back along the wall. Test the system by turning on the dryer and making sure you can’t identify any leaks from the back of the dryer and that you have a steady flow of air coming out of the vent outside.

Safety Tips

  • Make sure your home has working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Smoke detectors need to be on every level of the home and in every sleeping area.
  • Smoke detectors need to be replaced after 10 years, but the batteries need to be replaced twice a year, even if they are hard-wired detectors.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be on each level of your home as well.
  • Please, please, please do not run your dryer unless someone is home. Do not run your dryer and then go to bed. Yes, it saves time on chores but no one whose house has burned down from a dryer fire is grateful that they saved that time.
  • Dryer vents should be UL (Underwriters Laboratories) (an organization focused on product safety testing and certification) Listed and be made of a metal material, NOT plastic. 
Besides mounds of lint, below are items fished out of a dryer: 17 cents, 24 bobby pins, three collar stays, a zipper pull, a safety pin, allergy medicine, 12 alcohol wipes, a pen and two hair ties. 
Things pulled out

Feb 21

Meet Your New CORE Team

Posted on February 21, 2017 at 3:47 PM by Andrea Mantakounis


By Chief Berg

The CORE (Community Outreach and Engagement) program grew out of the desire to provide services that we provided in the past via our Community Services Bureau, which was eliminated in 2011. I wanted to have an officer, who already really knows the area district, get even more involved in the community on a one-on-one basis. I am hoping that this program allows our CORE officers the opportunities to meet with community members that they ordinarily would not, which will provide them with a more holistic view of the community they serve.

We handpicked the officers for this program, we wanted proactive, positive officers who have demonstrated the ability to easily interact with the public. I believe that almost any of our officers could step up and do this assignment, however these six officers have a lot of experience and still stay proactive and positive, they were exactly what we were looking for. Officer Robert Wojciechowski (1) will be the CORE officer for the Adam Area, Officer Lamar Kashat (2) will be the CORE officer for the Baker Area, Officer Eric Le Roux (3) will be the CORE officer for the Charlie Area, Officer Guy Lynn (4) will be the Core Officer for the David Area, Officer Kirk Swenson (5) will be the CORE Officer for the Edward Area and Officer Anthony Roeske (6) will be the CORE Officer for the Frank Area.

Map of Area Districts

In five years I am hoping this program will have really taken off and inspired residents to take part in their neighborhood watch groups, or to start one if one doesn’t already exist in their area. We will not be waiting for the public to come to us to organize, we will be going to them and asking them to be active community partners. If other communities start replicating what we are doing to enhance their relationships with citizens and business partners, we know it will be a success.

The SHPD is inviting all residents to come on out for a casual meet and greet to get to know their CORE Officer on March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center.

Jan 06

Stay warm -safely- this winter

Posted on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 AM by Andrea Mantakounis

Electrical cord overloaded
An overloaded power strip caused this house fire in Sterling Heights.

By Fire Chief Chris Martin 

It seems like summer just ended and we went right into winter overnight; the cold weather is certainly here. The Sterling Heights Fire Department want to make sure everyone stays safe this winter and would like to provide some heating safety tips. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating malfunctions cause roughly 16% of fires in the home and accounted for 470 deaths and nearly 1,500 injuries from 2009-2013, so it is very important to consider these safety tips:

Keep anything that can burn, like drapes, decorations, furniture, or combust, like fuel, spray cans and paint, at least 3 feet away from all heating appliances, like furnaces, portable space heaters, fireplaces or wood stoves. Sparks can jump and cause fires wherever they land. Nearby material can act as kindling for the ember, fueling the fire.


Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. Space heaters cause 25,000 home fires a year, and 6,000 emergency room visits, according to the Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety group. Never overload power strips or outlets, space heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet, do not use an extension cord. The photo above was from a house fire here in Sterling Heights that was cause by an overloaded power strip. 


Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Make sure there is always a glass door or mesh screen in front of your fireplace. Be aware these gates can get hot and cause burns.


Never, ever use your oven or stove to heat your home. A couple in Burton, Michigan died recently in a house fire started by their stove that they were using for heat. Please do not try to heat your homes like this! 

Have your heating equipment and chimneys (if you burn wood) cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional each year. Build up can accumulate along the inside walls of the chimney creating potential for a dangerous chimney fire. 


Do not store gas powered equipment, or gasoline in your home. All it takes is a simple spark or pilot light from a water heater or furnace being ignited to start a fire. A malfunction while lighting a propane heater in this Michigan home caused it to quickly go up in flames, leaving the homeowners with nothing. 


Never leave burning candles unattended. Consider using battery-operated candles for decoration instead.


Heavy snowstorms and ice storms frequently cause power outages. When this occurs, the situation calls for extra vigilance in home safety. Be careful using generators; make sure they are well vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Like fire, carbon monoxide can be a deadly threat, the odorless, invisible gas claims the lives of about 400 people annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sickens many, many more. Carbon monoxide poisoning is believed to have taken the lives of four men recently in Detroit.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from home appliances and heating systems, it can also come from poorly maintained chimneys. The chimney and chimney connector act as a furnace's exhaust system. If debris is blocking the chimney, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside the house, putting everyone inside at risk. Keep a gate on the top of your chimney to prevent debris from falling in or to prevent animals from building nests in the chimney. It is important to keep the gate cleared before you start a fire in the fireplace.


As with any season, your home must be equipped with properly functioning smoke detectors. They are the first line of defense in any house fire, regardless of the cause, and they save lives. Smoke detectors should be on each level of the home, including the basement. They should be in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area. The best smoke alarms are wired together so that they all go off if one goes off. All batteries in smoke detectors should be replaced at least once a year, regardless if they are hard wired. The exception is for new smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries. All smoke detectors are only good for 10 years; please replace detectors that are over ten years old. Check the back of the smoke detector for the manufacture date, detectors manufactured before 1999 have a 4-5 serial number and no date printed, obviously these need to be replaced stat! 


Be safe and enjoy the winter!