Twelve reports of serious kitchen fires started by the overheating of electric heating elements have prompted Maytag to recall approximately 1.7 million dishwasher sold in the United States from February 2006 through April 2010. The recall, announced through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on June 3, 2010, affects dozens of models dishwashers bearing the brand names Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, Admiral, Magic Chef, Performa by Maytag and Crosley.

According to the CPSC, “Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers, disconnect the electric supply by shutting off the fuse or circuit breaker controlling it, inform all users of the dishwasher about the risk of fire and contact Maytag to verify if their dishwasher is included in the recall.” Owners of recalled machines can receive cash vouchers of $150 or $250 for their possibly defective dishwashers, depending on what they plan to do with the money. Maytag will post additional recall information to its Web site.

While federal and company officials are reporting that no people have suffered physical injuries or lost their lives in fires resulting from the overheating dishwaters, electrical fires can not be taken lightly. More than 300 Americans die each year in household fires started by malfunction electrical equipment and wiring. And, of course, any problems with electric wires or components of home appliances can cause serious contact burns, nerve damage and death by electrocution.

Maytag and CPSC personnel appear to be acting promptly and decisively to ensure the worst does not happen when the company’s dishwashers malfunction. That is most welcome.