Firefighters urge vigilance after bathroom fan fire

Warren County Fire and Rescue is urging the public to be vigilant when it comes to room exhaust fans following a Monday fire near Waterlick that displaced five residents.

The fire, which occurred at 101 Deer Place Court, originated in the home’s attic and was started by a malfunctioning bathroom fan.

Warren County Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said these fans do cause fires due to the mechanics contained within them.

“Most common bathroom fans are some type of fan and motor assembly used to remove steam moisture and odors out of the bathroom, and part of the newer type fans also include a light assembly inside of them so a lot of them serve as a dual purpose,” he said. “This one here, it showed that the fire was determined to have resulted from the actual fan and motor assembly and was not part of the light fixture.”

Furthermore, given the fan’s function of removing moist air, dust particles can adhere to mechanics within the fan, creating a potentially flammable environment.

“It does move air and withdraw moisture, so depending on the frequency of use and the air quality, you might get out of the shower and have this fan running,” he said. “It’s drawing dust particles across the moist parts and it’s causing that dust to stick and it builds up. Once it builds up and starts restricting the airflow, it’s putting extra strain on the motor.”

He also noted that these fans are common in houses, and that many homeowners aren’t aware of their capabilities or maintenance requirements.

“Almost every home has one,” he said. And particularly newer homes. They are not designed for long-term or continuance usage and they are not designed to be maintenance-free. This is not the first fire we’ve seen from that. This is a common fire that we see in the community and across the United States. These fans build up dust, have moisture and leaving them running for long periods of time exceeds the manufacturer recommendation.”

Increasing the potential for danger should a fan catch fire is the location of the fans, Maiatico said. The home in Waterlick’s fan was located directly beneath the attic, where it had access to flammable insulation as well as building materials contained within it.

The family was home at the time of the fire and due to some quick action, the house was not totally lost, Maiatico said.

“They were able to discover the fire and call 911 and actually used a fire extinguisher,” Maiatico said. “The fire, while it spread, it certainly didn’t spread to the magnitude if nobody intervened. … This was a good success story with the occupancy having a fire extinguisher and fire safety practices in their home. … The fire caused probably 10,000 in damages.”

Maiatico and the rest of the department are urging homeowners whose homes contain bathroom exhaust fans to properly clean them and to always make sure smoke alarms are functioning and have working batteries.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com