Most of us know that cigarettes can cause fires if not stubbed out properly, but West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is raising awareness about the potential fire hazards associated with misusing electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a mist, or vapour, that the user inhales.
The two main types have either a replaceable cartridge or require refillable liquid.
There have been a number of fires nationally – and one recent incident in Batley, West Yorkshire.
The most common cause of fire appears to be either:
Using incorrect chargers. Battery capacities and charging voltages vary according to manufacturer.
Over-tightening of the screwed connection to the rechargeable battery resulting in mechanical damage which can begin to decompose the battery cells, creating heat and possible failure.
All chargers come with an LED indicator which changes from red to green. The LED is usually red when you place a discharged battery into it, and will change to green when the battery is fully charged.
Unlike most mobile phones, many lithium-ion batteries within e-cigarettes do not have any overcurrent protection so they continue charging until the coil overheats and the lithium-ion battery explodes in the unit.
E-cigarette batteries and chargers are used frequently, but they are rarely used and maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions.
The recent incident in Batley, West Yorkshire;
The Fire Safety Department received a call from a resident who had had an incident at his home. The e-cigarette was about one week old and had been recharged twice using the wall socket charger. On the 3rd occasion it was being charged using a fully charged laptop.
The e-cigarette was plugged into the USB port of the laptop, as per the instructions. After 10–15 minutes, a yellow flash and loud bang were seen and heard by the occupants. The e-cigarette had exploded causing burning fragments to be projected across the living room. This caused some burning to the carpet and scorch marks on the settee and opposite wall.
Sean Fearon, Fire Investigation Officer for WYFRS, said: “The owner of the e-cigarette in the Batley incident had in fact followed the instructions. However, a lot of research is going on nationally into the potential problems surrounding e-cigarettes and the initial indications seem to point towards incorrect charging rather than faulty products. I imagine that some people did get e-cigarettes as Christmas gifts and I advise potential users to follow our safety tips.”
Only use the charger supplied with your kit – there are many chargers on the market that will only work with one brand of batteries but can cause problems with other battery types.
Do not ‘mix and match’ components from different e-cig 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 them unattended whilst on charge.
Clean the battery centre pin and charger contact at least once a week with tissue or alcohol wipes.
Remove battery from charger when fully charged.
The most serious incident of note outside of the West Yorkshire area was in October 2013, and resulted in a fatality in Derbyshire. The fire was as a result of components from different e-cigarettes being used together along with an incorrectly rated charger.