Fire in St. Helena Island home believed to be started by recalled dishwasher

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comApril 8, 2014 

A faulty dishwasher caused a fire in a home in St. Helena Island off of Harbor Breeze seen on April 8, 2014.

THEOPHIL SYSLO — Staff photo Buy Photo

Heading out the door to work on March 17, St. Helena Island resident Greta Maddox switched on her dishwasher as she has so many times before.

A few days later, Maddox would learn the appliance -- one subject to a manufacturer's recall -- likely caused the fire that ravaged her home. Since the fire, Maddox and her family have shuttled between vacation properties -- she works as a rental agent -- while they wait for their insurance company to settle their claim.

The fire began soon after she had turned on her Bosch dishwasher and left for work. A laborer working with a neighbor at her home noticed smoke in the kitchen and called the fire department, Maddox said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to the attic, Lady's Island-St. Helena Island Fire District spokesman Lee Levesque said. The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes, he said.

Maddox said the damage was limited mostly to the kitchen and the attic, as the fire climbed straight up from the dishwasher. However, smoke, soot and water destroyed furniture, mattresses and other items, Maddox said.

Remarkably, some items stored in the attic, like her children's baby blankets in a wooden chest and other mementos in a plastic bin, survived intact. The chest and bin withstood the heat and flames with only minor damage, she said.

It was only a few days after the fire, as her insurance company surveyed the damage, that Maddox learned her dishwasher was under recall. An insurance inspector said the countertop and dishwasher were the fire's likely starting point.

"As soon as he said that, we put it into Google," Maddox said. She had been nagged by the possibility she left a coffee pot on, "but we found that the serial numbers on our dishwasher were in the recall range."

About 475,000 Bosch and Siemens brand dishwashers produced between May 1999 and July 2005 were put under voluntary recall in 2009 after it was discovered an electrical component could overheat and create a fire hazard, according to a release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Maddox, who purchased the dishwasher in 2005, said information about the recall isn't well-known locally. After posting the dishwasher information on Facebook, three or four friends replied they had the same dishwasher but didn't know about a recall.

Bosch inspectors will investigate the torched dishwasher Friday, and the findings could be important for the family's insurance claim. Maddox said the insurance company would likely attempt to get Bosch to help pay for rebuilding the home if the dishwasher is found to have been defective. Work on the home is expected to take six months.

After spending the first few days in a vacant rental home, another owner Maddox worked for put up her family for two weeks while she tracked down a rental home.

However, Maddox's insurance does not cover the rent for the home, which means she'll have to pay rent while her house is reconstructed. She hopesBosch will pay some of those costs.

"It puts us out of pocket, so I'm hoping they'll be sweet, and we can convince them to help us out," she said.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

Related content:

  • Bosch and Siemens Model Dishwashers Recalled by BSH Home Appliances Corporation Due to Fire Hazard: http://1.usa.gov/1kHNY79

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