OGDEN — After firefighters determined an exploding e-cigarette caused a Christmas morning house fire last week, officials said that though explosions are relatively uncommon, users should still use caution.
Just before 10 a.m. Dec. 25, the Ogden City Fire Department responded to a blaze at 984 N. Orchard Ave. When they arrived, they found a thick band of smoke sweeping through the home and two adults and three children standing outside in the frigid morning cold.
Anthony Bell, one of the adults at the home, told the Standard-Examiner the fire started after an e-cigarette he was using exploded in his face. Bell thought he may have battery acid in his face and immediately went to wash out his eyes after the explosion. Soon after Bell left the room he was in, another adult resident in the home, Shanda Miller, found a crib on fire.
The Ogden Fire Department said most of the damage done to the home was caused by smoke, with initial damage estimates at $40,000.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 2.5 million Americans use e-cigarettes and the number is rising quickly. The administration says there were 25 separate incidents of an e-cigarette explosion and fire reported in the United States between Jan. 1, 2009 and August 2014. There were nine injuries and zero deaths in those cases, with two people suffering serious burns.
Most of the explosions occurred while the e-cigarettes’ batteries were charging, the Fire Administration says.
A 2014 report conducted by the USFA said that while cases of explosions are rare, “the shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails.”
The report said most e-cigarette explosions happen suddenly and include “a loud noise, a flash of light, smoke, flames and often vigorous ejection of the battery and other parts.” They also typically ignite something else nearby, like carpets, drapes, bedding, couches or vehicle seats, the report says.
The Fire Administration says that using power sources not approved by e-cig manufacturers to recharge the lithium-ion batteries is a common reason for explosion and fire.
Layton Fire Department spokesman Doug Bitton concurred, saying improper chargers, or chargers that don’t go with the e-cigarettes, are the number one reason for explosions he’s seen.
“It’s a concern,” he said. “We just stress to people that you really need to pay attention and read the manufacturer statements on the device. Follow the warnings.”
Bitton said the Layton Fire Department has responded to about five fires related to e-cigarette explosions in recent years.
“Of those, we even had a couple of eyewitness who say they saw the batteries actually explode,” Bitton said.
According to the Fire Administration, e-cigarettes were first patented in 2003 and have been available for purchase in the U.S. since 2007. Bitton said safety has continued to improve over the years, but consumers should consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov to see if any e-cigarette products they own have been recalled for safety reasons.
Ogden Deputy Fire Chief Eric Bauman said last week’s Christmas morning fire was his department’s first known call related to an e-cigarette.
“As far as we know, that was our first encounter with an e-cigarette,” he said.
You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 801-625-4233. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook.