E-Cigarettes Causing Fires


    If cigarettes have always been a major fire hazard, their electronic imitators aren’t necessarily much better.

    Incidents of exploding e-cigarettes are on the rise as ‘vaping’ – as the act of smoking them is described – grows in popularity.

    A woman in Nuneaton, Warwickshire awoke to find her bedroom ablaze last month after leaving an e-cigarette charging overnight via her laptop USB port.

    A man in Florida, meanwhile, lost part of his tongue and several teeth when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth two years ago.

    E-cigarette battery components set fire to material in a Derbyshire woman’s room, causing the explosion of an aerosol container, and leading to her death.  The fire was thought to result from components from different e-cigarettes being used together with an incorrectly rated charger.

    Unlike those of mobile phones many e-cigarette batteries lack over-current protection and thus continue charging even once fully charged.  The coil can potentially overheat, causing the battery to explode in the unit.

    Crews from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) recently attended two separate incidents when e-cigarette batteries were thrown up to two metres from where they were charged, before landing on carpet and igniting.

    A typical e-cigarette consists of three main components: a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an atomiser and a replaceable or refillable cartridge containing liquid nicotine, flavours and other chemicals. Each brand has its own specific type of charger.

    The battery heats up a coil attached to a wick, which heats the liquid containing nicotine, thus creating vapour that is then inhaled.

West Yorkshire FRS has issued the following guidance to users of e-cigarettes:

  • Only use the charger supplied with your kit
  • Do not mix and match components from different e-cigarette manufacturers
  • Never over-tighten a battery on to the charger – plug the charger in first, then gently screw the battery in until the light on the charger flashes, and then stop
  • Never leave e-cigarettes unattended whilst charging
Collated by Philip Turnbull

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