PORTLAND - David Vale couldn’t believe the screams coming from his upstairs two weeks ago.
“The dishwasher’s on fire,” Vale said he heard his friend screaming.
“White smoke streams out of the dishwasher door and sort of popping noise,” Vale told Newschannel 8. “My whole kitchen and dining room was full of a white haze, it set off my smoke detector.”
“No matter what I tried, I couldn’t turn it off,” said Vale. “My circuit breaker never went off and it has an internal fuse that never went off. I had to turn the breaker off to stop the glow that was showing through the front of the dishwasher.”
When the smoke cleared, Vale found the front of his Sears Kenmore Elite dishwasher had a hole burned almost through the top plastic panel.
The next day, Vale went online to see if anyone else had problems with their Kenmore dishwasher. He said he was shocked at what he found.
The web site kitchenaidfire.com lists nearly 500 complaints and includes links to news stories from across the country about the same thing that happened with the Kenmore Elite he bought in 2004.
“Clearly, this is a bigger problem than just one or two dishwashers,” said Vale. “Had we not been home, I fear it could have burned down my house.”
Vale contacted Unit 8 Investigators and we checked out his dishwasher. The front panel was nearly melted through and the circuit board inside was partially melted with smoke damage under his granite countertop.
“The control panels can't handle it (electricity) anymore and sort of self-erupted into flames,” Vale told Newschannel 8.
Looking further on the kitchenaidfire.com site, Vale learned his Kenmore Elite dishwasher was actually made by Whirlpool. He called Whirlpool, but said the customer service person denied ever hearing about fires with Whirlpool dishwashers.
You can also call 1-800-422-1230
“They're denying in public there is any problem with these dishwashers,” said Vale.
Unit 8 contacted Whirlpool and the company immediately responded with a video statement.
In it, Whirlpool spokesperson Cynthia Soledad said, “We recognize in rare instances those controls could overheat just like any other product that uses electricity. So our engineers designed and tested dishwashers with several layers of safety features,” said Soledad.
“First, to reduce the risk of overheating, and second, to keep any heat damage safely contained and inside the unit,” Soledad said in that statement.
Charles Fax is an attorney who has filed a class action suit against Whirlpool.
In an interview with Newschannel 8, Fax said, “These dishwashers are unsafe, they're a danger to people’s health, safety and welfare and we want them off the market.”
Fax said he has heard reports of people’s houses burning down from this problem and that they can catch fire even when they are not turned on.
“Even if your dishwasher has not yet combusted, our point is it's potentially going to combust,” Fax said to Newschannel 8. “The danger is there, it's like a loaded gun ready to go off.”
Fax said there are more than 5 million of the dishwashers made by Whirlpool under dozens of different names including Kitchen Aid, Kenmore, Whirlpool, Jen Air and more.
Newschannel 8 contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see what the agency is doing about the issue. The CPSC responded by saying they are investigating but so far has not issued a formal recall.
After Newschannel 8 started investigating Vale’s case, Whirlpool offered to buy back his dishwasher. Vale took them up on the offer, and Whirlpool says it will take his dishwasher to its lab for further inspection.
In a statement to Newschannel 8, a spokesman for Whirlpool wrote, “We have reached out to Mr. Vale so that our safety team can conduct a full evaluation of what occurred with his dishwasher.”
To find out if you have one of these makes and models of dishwashers go to www.kitchenaidfire.com where you’ll find directions on how to check it out and where to sign a petition if you think the dishwashers should be recalled.
You can also call 1-800-422-1230