A PILE of folded washing burst into flames in the early hours after being tumble-dried.

The towels had been washed and put in a Hessian-style bag but later “self-heated” and caught fire.

The homeowner was alerted when smoke from the blaze triggered a smoke alarm in their home and crews from Bognor Fire Station were called to the property in Lion Road, Pagham, at 1.56am on Saturday.

When they arrived they found the house was filled with heavy smoke and three people had been able to escape from inside.

Crews removed the towels and extinguished them.

But this has not been the only recent laundry-related incident.

Fire crews were called to a flat in Imperial Mews, Crawley, at 4.10pm on Sunday to combat a washing machine fire, which several crews extinguished.

The blackened washing machine was removed from the flat and no-one was injured.

But the property was heavily damaged by the smoke and the resident was forced to find alternative accommodation for a night.

Simon Foster of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s said: “At this time of year, people are using their tumble dryers far more than at other times of the year.

“When taking clothes out of the tumble dryer, make sure you wait for laundry to cool down before putting it away.”

He continued: “Oil residue and oxygenating chemicals from stain removing detergents can create a chemical reaction causing items like tea towels to self-heat, smoulder and could catch fire.

“Once clothes have cooled down, make sure you store them in a well-ventilated area.”