Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, shows off the e-cigarette unit, left, that started a fire in a home and displaced a family of four Monday night, along side another unit and batteries from the same model made by the same manufacturer that have also overheated and is warning the units could start more and potentially deadly blazes. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Vaping device overheats, burns down home on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Fire Rescue says units could cause fires in other homes and even aircraft

A family of four has been displaced after a house fire broke out in the bedroom shortly before 10 p.m. on Monday. It was caused by an overheated vaping device, and Nanaimo Fire Rescue is warning that malfunctioning e-cigarettes could start more fires in other homes and even aircraft.

Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, who investigated the blaze, determine the fire started when a vaping device that was tightly packed in a backpack overheated and caught fire.

“The smoke alarms alerted [the homeowner] to the fire,” Millbank said.

But by the time the homeowner was able to return with a fire extinguisher, the fire was fully involved in the bedroom and already too intense for him to fight effectively.

Everyone got out safely, there were no reported injuries and the homeowners are insured, but Millbank is warning that the particular brand of vaping device, which was purchases with others online from China, could spark more fires. Millbank said the Wismec, model Exo Skeleton ES300, units are made in China and do not have Underwriters Labs Canada or Canadian Standards Association certification for use in Canada marked on them and are potentially dangerous. In fact all three of the devices that the family member purchased have malfunctioned and melted due to overheating.

“As it turns out there were several other e-cigarettes purchased by the individual at the house that also overheated,” Millbank said. “This one happened to be in a backpack so it had a thermal runaway, but the other ones that he had given or sold to friends had also melted.”

Millbank suspects a button that must be pressed to activate the unit doesn’t have an automatic shut-off feature, so if packed tightly with clothes or other items in a backpack or suitcase, the button might be held down causing the element that heats the vaping product to overheat and catch fire.

The other possible cause, Millbank said, is that the unit’s charging system could be faulty, causing the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to overheat and catch fire.

He said this particular fire spread very quickly and the bedroom was fully involved in flame in under two minutes, possibly because one of the unit’s lithium-ion batteries exploded and showered flaming material to other combustible items in the bedroom.

“So luckily only one house burned down, but you know, this thing has been travelling around in airplanes … it went with him to Bulgaria and it could have gone off in an airplane,” Millbank said. “The other thing is lithium batteries require software to regulate the charging rate … because the batteries become volatile if they’re too rapidly charged and he had just done a software update and this happened. It has a microprocessor in it that manages the charging rate.”

Millbank said he was not aware of any of safety warnings about the product from Health Canada, but Transport Canada has issued a warning in February about packing the devices in baggage on board aircraft and there are media reports online from the United States and Europe of overheating, fires and explosions associated with e-cigarette units including the Wismec model.

“We don’t know exactly what caused the device to fail, but there are basically three examples of this device in Nanaimo, all from the same Internet site, made by Wismec,” Millbank said.

Wismec did not reply to a request for comment by press time.



photos@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Dump truck driver hurt after highway crash in Ladysmith

One man airlifted to hospital after collision between dump truck and pickup truck Friday

Ladysmith reservoirs full despite winter drought

Both reservoirs at or above capacity

Rickter Scale: Goodbye in the blink of an eye

Funny the impact a text can have — in more ways than one

Ladysmith council dropping paper agenda packages

Town expects to save 50,000 sheets of paper a year by using tablets

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Fierce house cat spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Most Read