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

Okanagan Regional Library introduces ASL story-time

The Rutland and Westbank locations will host the events

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP acclaimed for his party’s nomination

Stephen Fuhr runs unopposed as the party’s standard-bearer for the next federal election

Kelowna Rockets ready to take off into regular season

The home opener kicks things off in Kamloops on Friday

Kelowna Fire Department to handle Vernon, OKIB dispatch

Five-year contract will net Kelowna more than $200,000 says fire chief

Two vehicle crash in West Kelowna

One person was treated for minor injures this morning following a collision

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

High spirits after first week of classes at Shuswap’s outdoor school

South Canoe school is taking student learning into the great outdoors

Most Read