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Clogged Dryer Vent to Blame for House Fire That Injured Two Boys

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MEADOW — Investigators say they believe a clogged dryer vent is the cause of a Johnston County house fire that has left two boys, ages 4 and 5 years old, in critical condition suffering from third-degree burns.

The children, Alex and Donald Crenshaw, were taken to Johnston Memorial Hospital around 10:30 p.m. Sunday with facial and leg burns, and were later transported to the UNC Burn Center.

The holidays had begun much happier. The children's mother Tammy Crenshaw had just married Bobby Baker on New Year's Day. The Bakers were also burned, but were treated and released.

Rescue workers quickly took the two boys into their care and tried to soothe their pain until they could get them to the hospital.

Now the family says it is praying for their recovery.

"We've been broken down, but we have to be strong for the boys," said Crenshaw. "We look on the positive that everybody lived and God got us all out of the house to live and that we're all alive," said Crenshaw. "God has His will and purpose, and I feel that they will pull through."

Investigators say a clogged dryer vent caught fire in a utility room adjoining the family's home at Godwin Lake Road and Highway 50 near Meadow.

"It's an older home and materials in the home were such that the fire spread rapidly, and as a result we had some serious injuries," said Johnston County fire marshal Dewayne West.

A firefighter driving by the house on his way to work saw flames and knocked on the door. Crenshaw got out of the house and Baker rescued the children.

Firefighters needed about 45 minutes to extinguish because of the house's structure.

"The house was kind of an old house, and it had double ceilings in it," said fire chief Randy Parker, of Meadow Fire Department. "We had to go up on top and get all that down."

The Bakers said the rental house had one smoke detector, possibly two, but they could not say if the detectors were working.

Safety experts recommend that dryer exhaust lines be checked for lint buildup; it is the buildup of hot exhaust air on the trapped lint that can lead to fires.

Appliance repairman Brian Burgess has been repairing dryers for 13 years and says it is not uncommon for dryer vents to become clogged.

"The first thing I'll check when they tell me it's not drying properly is that it's not kinked and that there's a good airflow from there, out," Burgess said.

One clue that a dryer exhaust line needs cleaning out is if clothing takes longer than usual to dry, West said.

"If they see a change, if it's taking longer to dry clothes or if the clothes are unusually hot when they take them out of the dryer, those types of things should send the message that 'I need to have this checked out,'" West said.

Burgess said many new dryers have a feature that automatically shuts off the dryer when its temperature gets above 250 degrees, but the dryer in the Baker's home was an older model.

Donations for the boys may be sent to:Memorial Baptist Church, c/o Tammy Crenshaw, P.O. Box 485, Buies Creek, NC 27506. ,Greg ClarkandEd Wilson