E-cigarettes ‘start at least one fire every week’

FIRE services across the UK are now attending at least one blaze involving electronic cigarettes each week, according to new figures released yesterday.
The aftermath of an e-cigarette fire in London. Picture: PAThe aftermath of an e-cigarette fire in London. Picture: PA
The aftermath of an e-cigarette fire in London. Picture: PA

The devices have been linked to more than 100 fires with dozens of incidents suspected to have been sparked by e-cigarettes or related equipment including chargers in less than three years.

Data from 43 fire services shows that since 2012, they have attended 113 calls to fires related to e-cigarettes, with several taking place after users connected the devices to incompatible chargers.

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The findings indicate fire brigades are recording a growing number of incidents involving the technology, which is now used by an estimated 2.1 million smokers in the UK.

From the services which provided data, e-cigarettes were cited as being in some way involved in eight fires in 2012, rising to 43 last year, while there have been at least 62 so far this year – indicating that officers are now attending incidents relating to e-cigarettes at a rate of more than one a week.

In comparison, UK figures for 2012-13 show that the careless disposal of normal cigarettes and other products including cigars and pipes accounted for approximately 40 per cent of fatalities that occurred in dwellings – over 80 deaths.

Fire chiefs have issued safety warnings following a spate of incidents.


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In August, David Thomson, 62, was killed when an e-cigarette on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using. It was thought to be the first fatality from a fire involving an e-cigarette in the UK.

Other incidents have resulted in people being hurt, while there have been reports of users’ houses being badly damaged.

Mark Hazelton, smoking and tobacco lead at the Chief Fire Officers Association, said they are investigating the extent of the problem.

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“The fear behind it is we could see more incidents because it is a really big, growing market,” he said. “It’s difficult to tell the scale of it at the moment.”

Of the incidents where details were available, most took place while e-cigarettes were being charged.

Devices “exploded” while being powered up, while other cases involved batteries rupturing or overheating. Fires also broke out after e-cigarettes were plugged into computers or DVD players.

Some services were unable to provide precise information about the exact causes of fires, other than to disclose that e-cigarettes or linked equipment were involved.

Chargers rather than the gadgets themselves were suspected to have sparked a large number of the incidents, including a number where the wrong charger was used.

All of the 51 fire services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were asked to provide figures on the number of incidents involving e-cigarettes they have attended in the last three years under Freedom of Information laws.

Most responded with details but eight were unable to provide figures.


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