Have you cleaned your dryer’s lint trap lately?

Here’s what can happen if you don’t clean it often enough, courtesy of an Indiana fire department.

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According to the U.S. Fire Administration, around 2,900 clothes dryer fires occur each year in homes and apartments. The biggest culprit? Lint. Lint from your clothes is extremely flammable. And if it’s clogging up your link trap or dyer vents, it may ignite.

Related: Is There A Hidden Hazard Lurking in Your Washer or Dryer?

Consider these recent news reports:

In March 2015, three families in Colorado Springs had to flee their homes after a fire spread through two floors of an apartment building, according to a local television report. Fire investigators pinpointed the cause: a build-up of clothes dryer lint.

The same month, firefighters put out a garage fire in Alice, Texas, according to the local newspaper. The cause? A build-up of lint behind the unvented dryer.

And a month earlier, occupants just managed to escape their apartment during a raging fire in Bethesda, Maryland. The fire, which caused an estimated $1 million in damage, was caused by clothes dryer exhaust vents that were “100 percent clogged with lint,” according to fire investigators.

Related: 8 Innocent-Seeming Habits that Put Your Home at Risk

“The easiest way to avoid it is to keep your lint filter and dryer exhaust vents clean on a regular basis,” Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) told Patch.

Here are some tips from the NFPA on how to prevent dryer fires.

  • Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Installing a dryer is not a good DIY project.
  • Clean the lint out of the lint trap before each load. Experts also recommend doing a more thorough cleaning periodically: Turn off your dryer and unplug it, then use the kind of brush used to clean refrigerator coils to “sweep” the link trap.While you’re emptying the lint filer, remove any lint that has collected around the drum.
  • At least once a year, and more often if you notice your clothes are taking longer than usual to dry, clean the lint out of your vent pipes or have a dryer lint removal service do it. Some fire chiefs who have put out many dryer-related home fires recommend cleaning your vent pipes every few months, according to www.dryerbox.com.
  • Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted in any way and the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating.
  • Keep your dryer in good working order. Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are intact.
  • Check (or have an electrician check) to see that the dryer outlet and plug are compatible and properly connected.
  • Don’t overload your dryer.
  • Turn the dryer off if you leave the house or when you go to bed.

Related: Are You Prepared for a House Fire?

Diana is an award-winning writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in magazine, video, book and digital journalism, with a specialty in health coverage. She was a longtime writer and news editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting; has written for publications from the Washington Post to the Times of London syndicate; and has served as a senior and/or consulting editor at Time Inc. Health, Hippocrates, HealthDay News Service and Reporting on Health. She was also editor in chief of Consumer Health Interactive, a national health and medical web site, and has reported on finance for Blueshift Research and PBS Frontline. Before joining SafeBee, she was editor of Bioenergy Connection, a national magazine about bioenergy at UC Berkeley. Her favorite safety tip: Wear a bike helmet.