updated 2/2/2007 3:24:52 PM ET 2007-02-02T20:24:52

The recall of 2.3 million Maytag dishwashers, which could catch on fire, generated so many calls to the company that it could not handle the volume, a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman said Friday.

Faulty wiring in certain Maytag and Jenn-Air brand dishwashers led to a voluntary recall of the machines on Thursday. Dishwashers are blamed for causing 135 fires and four injuries.

Affected dishwashers were sold at department and appliances stores between July 1997 and June 2001 and sold at prices between $370 and $800.

Consumers, who were told to immediately unplug the machines and call Maytag to arrange for an in-home repair, were met with messages to call back later.

“We are working very closely with Maytag to address some operational issues that the company is experiencing,” said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency with responsibility for protecting the public from product that can cause injury or death. “It’s a positive sign that the company is receiving so many calls because we want consumers to be responsive to the announcement, but just as importantly, we want that remedy to be available to the consumers.”

Maytag, once the nation’s third-largest appliance maker, was bought by Whirlpool Corp. on March 31, 2006, in a deal valued at $2.6 billion.

“We have had high call volume and there have been some delays and some of those continue today, but I can tell you that the system is up and running,” said Whirlpool spokeswoman Jody Lau. “We expect to have that reconciled shortly.”

She said consumers having trouble getting through by phone should visit www.repair.maytag.com, which will help them determine if their machine is recalled through the model and serial numbers and decide whether to take a voucher for a new machine or request a repair.

Wolfson said consumers should call a toll-free telephone number to find out whether they have a recalled machine, but they may not be able to get the problem fixed immediately.

“The consumer may need to call back at a later time to be able to establish the timing for the in-home repair or the processing for the rebate that has been announced if you would like to purchase a new dishwasher,” Wolfson said. “We are working with the company to see to it that it is addressed as quickly as possible.”

Maytag has said it will provide free in-home repair or a $75 cash-back reimbursement on the purchase of a new Maytag, Jenn-Air, Whirlpool or KitchenAid dishwasher.

The recall announcement said liquid rinse-aid can leak from the dishwasher’s dispenser into internal wiring, which can then short-circuit and ignite.

Of the four injuries reported from dishwasher fires, there were three reports of smoke inhalation and one serious hand laceration as the consumer was operating a fire extinguisher to put out a fire.

The recall involves under-counter or portable plastic tub dishwashers with black, white, almond, bisque or stainless steel front panels.

Wolfson said the company’s technical problems should not keep consumers from taking immediate action because of the danger involved in continuing to operate the dishwashers.

“The CPSC wants consumers to take this issue very seriously in terms of what the hazard is,” he said. “In the meantime we still advocate that the consumer go to their panelboard and cut off power to the dishwasher and we ask for their continued patience but to not hesitate in calling back at a later time to take advantage of those remedies which are available to consumers.”

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