Farmington Hills Battalion Chief Bruce Belsky sets the lint ball on fire Sept. 19.

Farmington Hills Battalion Chief Bruce Belsky sets the lint ball on fire Sept. 19.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

690-pound lint ball set ablaze to raise awareness for fire safety

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published September 20, 2019


Sept. 19 was a hot day that grew even hotter as a local company set a new Guinness World Record for “the largest ball of lint” and then set it on fire to raise awareness of the dangers of dryer fires. 

“The dryer produces a lot of lint that doesn’t get caught in the lint trap. Everybody thinks that every time they do laundry and pull the lint off the screen, that’s it, but there’s a lot more lint that’s down in the machine, which is forced into the dryer vent and gets stuck,” said Jason Kapica, the president of the Farmington Hills-based Dryer Vent Wizard, a national dryer vent maintenance and repair franchise. “If you don’t have the proper venting materials in place, (and) if you do have a fire, it’ll spread faster, and that’s when people lose their homes.” 

The lint ball officially weighed in at 690 pounds  — with a height of 4.4 feet, a diameter of 6.2 feet and circumference of 19.2 feet. 

Guinness World Record Official Adjudicator Stephanie Randall, who was on-site for the record-breaking attempt, said the company had to produce a lint ball weighing at least 100 pounds to be considered. 

“We set a minimum they had to beat, and they went well above it. It was quite an achievement,”  she said.

With National Fire Prevention Month on the horizon in October, Kapica said his company had a “ mission to create something big that brings awareness to this important home safety issue.” 

Many had hoped and expected the large lint ball to ignite and burn rapidly, as lint normally would in a dryer, but as Kapica watched the smoldering pile of lint continue to burn, he felt his company had still completed the mission. 

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments across the country responded to an average of 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers each year between 2010 and 2014. Those dryer fires led to an average of 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries and $238 million in direct property damage each year. 

The leading reason for dryers to ignite was cited as a failure to clean them, and the leading items to be set ablaze were lint, dust or fiber.  

Despite the number of dryer-related fire incidents dropping from approximately 24,000 in 1980 to approximately 15,000 in 2014, Farmington Hills Fire Marshal Jason Baloga said this is still an important topic to talk about. 

“Dryer safety is an important topic, especially for the fire service. That’s why we have our prevention efforts out here today,” Baloga said. “We’re using this Guinness World Record as a platform for those safety messages and, hopefully, we can continue to see that decline in numbers.” 

Kapica said there are several steps residents can take to ensure their dryers won’t cause a fire, including using Underwriters Laboratory code 2158A-certified transition ventilation from the dryer to the wall, and making sure the appliance is receiving proper cleaning and maintenance annually. Depending on the size of a family and how much laundry they do, a dryer may need service more often. 

“It’s a maintenance item just like changing furnace filters (or) batteries in your smoke detectors,” Kapica said. “This is something you should put on that list to get done.” 

Kapica said people should never leave their dryers running while they sleep or when leaving their residence. 

If a dryer fire were to start, Baloga recommends the same thing he would for any fire: “Get outside and find a meeting place with your family. Call 911 once you’re outside the home.” 

He said ventilation is a huge part of how fires burn. 

“If you simply close the doors behind you, that could provide additional time for the Fire Department to get there and save your home,” Baloga said. 

Overall, Kapica hopes the event showcased how dangerous a dryer can become if unkempt. 

“(Dryers) should be taken seriously, and you should have them professionally cleaned on a regular basis to avoid having a fire.”