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LGA - Safety messages should be displayed on e-cigarette chargers after surge in blazes, say fire authorities

Graphic safety messages should be displayed on all e-cigarette chargers say fire authorities, after shock new statistics show a surge in fires connected to the devices.

Latest reported figures from fire services up and down the country reveal that since 2012 they have attended 113 calls to e-cigarette-related blazes. There were just eight call-outs in 2012 but this soared to 43 last year and there have been at least 62 so far this year. This means firefighters are now dealing with e-cigarette related incidents at more than one a week.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, fears that these are the "tip of the iceberg" and many cases go unreported. The warning comes during national Electrical Fire Safety Week, which is run by the Electrical Safety Council charity. E-cigarettes have rocketed in popularity and are now used by an estimated 2.1 million Britons each year.

These latest statistics come just weeks after a 62-year-old man died when an e-cigarette battery on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using.

Fire chiefs say many blazes are taking place because smokers are not using compatible chargers. This means too much current goes into the batteries and they overheat and eventually explode. Battery material shoots out – up to two to three metres in distance – and can cause a fire if it lands on anything combustible.

Now the LGA is calling for e-cigarette manufacturers to do more to warn of the dangers. This includes displaying prominent safety warnings, highlighting this issue, on e-cigarette kits and chargers.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA's Fire Services Management Committee, said: "The spiralling upward trend of fires connected with e-cigarettes is a major cause for concern and much more needs to be done to combat it. We expect this to continue to rise as more smokers switch to e-cigarettes. Alarmingly, there is no way of knowing the true figure as we understand many cases are going unreported.

"We are urging e-cigarette manufacturers to introduce clear, prominent and graphic new warnings spelling out to users the dangers of using incompatible chargers with e-cigarette batteries.

"Tragically, at least one life has been claimed and more fatalities could follow unless this issue is addressed rigorously and robustly.

"We are warning users that it is simply not worth risking their lives to save a few pounds by buying dodgy, dangerous or incompatible chargers"

Case studies

Merseyside

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service issued safety advice about charging e-cigarettes after the death of a Merseyside man following a fire involving an e-cigarette. An e-cigarette that had been charging in a bedroom exploded and caught fire. An inquest into the man's death was held in October, 2014. www.merseyfire.gov.uk/aspx/pages/LatestNews/NewsDetail.aspx?id=631

South Yorkshire
Fire officers are warning about dangers posed by electronic cigarettes, in the first week UK TV advert featuring one of the devices airs. A Ford Transit van was destroyed by fire after an e-cig had been left on charge, exploded and caused nearby paperwork to catch fire.
www.syfire.gov.uk/3659.asp

West Yorkshire
Two e-cigarette batteries exploded and started fires in two West Yorkshire homes in just 24 hours. West Yorkshire Fire Service has warned it is now being called out to e-cigarette fires more than once a month. In an incident in Bradford, a battery exploded and shot across the room, coming to rest at the foot of a wardrobe, which caught fire. www.wyfs.co.uk/news/fire-service-issues-safety-warning-after-two-e-cigarette-incidents-in-just-over-24-hours

London
Fire chiefs have highlighted concerns over the safety of e-cigarettes following a blaze believed to have been caused by an exploding e-cigarette in east London. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus rescued a woman from the ground floor flat. She was suffering from smoke inhalation and shock and was and was taken to hospital.
www.london-fire.gov.uk/news/LatestNewsReleases_15041420_explodingecigcausesfire.asp

West Midlands
A young mum scooped up her sons and fled in terror as the flames engulfed her bedroom. The fake fag exploded as it charged.
www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/exploding-e-cigarette-sets-shard-end-7173178 www.wmfs.net/content/new-e-cigs-warning

E-cigarette safety tips

E-cigarette users are advised to follow these safety tips when charging:

  • Always use the correct charger and follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • Never charge a battery that has signs of damage, that has been dropped, or has been subjected to impact
  • Never plug a charger into a non-approved mains power transformer
  • Check that your e-cigarette battery has overcharge or overheat protection
  • Remove the battery from charge when complete – don't over charge
  • Never leave a battery on charge unattended
  • Don't use if wet or exposed to water
  • Do not over tighten the atomiser or when connecting to charger
  • Ensure that you dispose of batteries correctly.

Contact

Matthew Cooper, Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Telephone: 0207 664 3007
Media Office (out-of-hours contact): 020 7664 3333
Local Government House, Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HZ

www.local.gov.uk

Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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