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Tumble dryer fire: lint ignition

What happened?

Accumulated lint trapped inside an industrial tumble dryer onboard a member’s vessel, overheated and ignited. Whilst working in the vessel laundry a steward smelt burning coming from one of the three tumble driers. The steward stopped the dryer immediately, removed the contents and observed a flame coming through from the base of the rotating drum. He extinguished the fire with a portable fire extinguisher and immediately notified the bridge.

The other dryers in the laundry were subsequently isolated to inspect their filters which were found to be clean.  A small amount of scorched lint was found trapped between the drum and the drum casing in the dryer: this lint had ignited.  The gap between the drum and casing of the two other dryers was found to be clean.

Action and lessons learned

Our member drew some key lessons learned and preventive measures from this event:

  • Confirm that everyone understands that they should raise the alarm before attempting to tackle a fire;
  • Systems for fire prevention, detection, protection and extinguishing, should be communicated to all crew during vessel inductions and that information regularly reinforced thereafter;
  • A review of manufacturer’s user guides to support operation and planned maintenance of tumble dryers – assessing where appropriate additional measures required to reduce the risk arising from operational use;
  • Take extra care when assessing the condition of filters within tumble dryers – it is more difficult to identify any passing or obstructions beyond filters;
  • Ensure that the design of the tumble dryer filters, drums and exhaust ducting enable sufficient access to allow for cleaning and removal of build-up of material;
  • Ensure all personnel are familiar with operations, maintenance and emergency procedures for equipment and machinery they are operating.

IMCA notes: tumble dryer fires have potentially very serious consequences, particularly in a ship. Please review the following incidents:

Members may wish to refer to IMCA M 119 Fires in DP vessel spaces

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