E-cigarettes may well be a popular item on Christmas wish lists this year with an estimated 2.1 million Britons using them.
However, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has had 8 incidents involving e-cigarettes this year (and 13 since the first related incident was recorded by us in August 2013).
Whilst this may seem like a relatively low number, there have been numerous other instances where the fire service has not been notified at the time so we believe the true scale of the issue is larger.
The main problem is the rechargeable batteries exploding whilst on charge. This is due to people using incorrect chargers with the device. Battery capacities and charging voltages vary according to manufacturer so it is not a case of any one will do!
DO NOT just use any available USB port to charge an e-cigarette battery.
Fires have also been caused by counterfeit products, which may seem like a cheap alternative but come at a hidden cost. If you are able to buy a counterfeit product for a fraction of the price of a genuine article, the savings have had to be made somewhere – it is usually quality that has been compromised!
Many counterfeit batteries and chargers do not have any overcurrent protection which can lead to the battery overheating whilst on charge.
When a battery overheats it can, and frequently does, explode causing red hot material to be ejected into a room. This burning material can travel up to two or three metres and can cause a fire to develop if it lands on anything combustible.
WYFRS Fire Investigation Officer, Sean Fearon said: “I would like to stress to the vaping community that we are not attempting to ban e-cigarettes. Consumers have a right to expect that electrical products brought into the home are safe to use and do not create a potential fire hazard. We are working with Trading Standards to ensure that products available on the UK market comply with all relevant legislation.
“However it’s important to note the majority of fires we have seen have been caused by the use of inappropriate chargers. No legislation is going to prevent a fire being caused by a consumer using a charger that is not correctly rated to their battery type.”
- Use your phone charger to charge an e-cigarette battery.
- Over-tighten your battery onto the charger.
- Leave your battery unattended whilst on charge.
- Remove your battery when fully charged.
- Clean any liquid from your battery before charging.
- Notify WYFRS and/or Trading Standards of any fires involving e-cigarette batteries – even if you think it was a minor incident.
The most recent fires WYFRS has attended involving e-cigarettes were in September.
However, by coincidence, we were called to two incidents within one weekend on September 6 and 7.
The first call was to a property in Beechwood Road, Wibsey, Bradford, at 1853 hrs on Saturday (September 6) and was attended by a crew from Odsal Fire Station.
An e-cigarette’s battery was being charged on a bedside unit and, when it failed, it exploded and shot across the room, coming to rest at the foot of a wardrobe.
The resulting fire was confined to the carpet around the leg of the wardrobe with smoke damage to the rest of the room (see picture).
Fire investigators believe the battery was being charged using an incorrect charger, which resulted in too much current being supplied to the battery.
In a separate incident, firefighters were called to a property in St Leonards Grove, Girlington, on Sunday (September 7) at 1941 hrs.
In this instance the battery was being charged with a charger supplied with the e-cigarette approximately two months earlier. It had been on charge for 15 to 20 minutes in a bedroom whilst the occupants were downstairs. Again the battery exploded (see picture of damage).
To assist with identifying the scale of this problem, please inform WYFRS and/or Trading Standards of any fires involving e-cigarettes.
The Citizens Advice consumer helpline can be contacted on 0845 404 0506.
WYFRS Fire Investigation department can be contacted via email: Fire.Investigation@westyorksfire.gov.uk
In an emergency always dial 999.