Are you sure you couldn't "force" the fan on in linux? Take a look at /proc/ACPI/FAN/../
If you see a files named "status" or "info", it means Linux at least see your fan. But sometime the BIOS have the control over the fan and sometime, the BIOS is dumb.
Sometime in these files, you have a "force_on" option, mean you could force the fan to be always running. Also, as you have a dell I know you can load some additionnal drivers that could, maybe, allow you to control the fans
The module is called "i8k" I believe, but you have to force the loading if you don't have an inspiron 8000. It's at your own risk but if you want to try, the command should be like "modprobe i8k force=1" .
Depending what ACPI feature your laptop support, you could also throttle down the CPU speed (use less power so less heat?).
Also, consider instaling "i2c" (probably already in your kernel) and "lm_sensors", as it would allow you to know the temperature of your laptop... Maybe it's not that bad. (Below 60 degrees is acceptable atmo)