E-Cigarette blamed for Westminster house fire

Device left on charge later exploded


Three months ago, Michael Henry learned the hard way just how volatile e-cigarettes can be when one exploded in his Sykesville home leaving him with third-degree burns.


"Just a flash.  Like I do any other time.  I come in.  I clip the battery in, put the back on and use it, and when I clipped it in, it was just 'Whoof!'" Henry said at the time.


"His face was black.  His arms were black,” added his daughter, Samantha, “It looked like a big firework that was in the air.  It just went everywhere---sparks and his shirt went up in flames and it was crazy."


On Friday evening, just up the road in Westminster, the Webb family got its own painful lesson in the danger posed by the devices when one of them left one on charge that nearly burned their house down.


"So the owner of the e-cigarette actually plugged the device in.  She left to go to work leaving her younger brother there at the house,” said Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire, “He actually heard a 'pop' or he described it as a 'bang' or an explosion.  He later found the bedroom on fire."


Fire investigators say with the growing popularity of the devices, especially among young people, they are seeing more devices fail increasing the risk to life, limb and property.


"There's no rhyme or reason for why they're failing or exactly what's going on,” said Alkire, “What I can say is, yes, the batteries seem to be the leading cause.  They seem to be... if you leave the battery top exposed that comes into contact with a metallic object, it somehow causes the device to actually charge and explode."


Experts say you should avoid using alternative charging devices with the e-cigarettes, never by foreign, cheaply made batteries and keep the batteries from coming into contact with metal.


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