Calls for safety warnings after 'exploding' e-cigarette chargers cause more than 100 fires

One man died after a blaze in Merseyside and several people have been injured

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The Independent Online

“Exploding” e-cigarettes have caused more than 100 fires including one that was deadly, prompting a warning that more people could die unless safety warnings are displayed.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents fire brigades in England and Wales, said e-cigarette blazes have been increasing in the last two years and is calling for “graphic” warnings to be put on chargers.

In 2012, there were just eight call-outs to e-cigarette fires but the figure rose to 43 last year and there have been at least 62 so far in 2014, adding up to 113 in total.

The figures could be the “tip of the iceberg” according to the LGA, which fears many incidents have not been recorded.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, head of its fire services 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.”

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A 62-year-old man in Merseyside died in August after a charger in his bedroom “exploded”, igniting an oxygen tube.

In South Yorkshire, a Ford Transit van was destroyed in a blaze caused by an e-cigarette left charging that set light to paperwork and in West Yorkshire, two batteries exploded and started fires in two homes in 24 hours.

A young mother had to flee her home in the West Midlands were her two young sons as flames engulfed her bedroom after another charger burst into flames and in London, a woman was rescued from her east London flat.

Fire officials believe many accidents have been caused by smokers not using the compatible charges sold with their devices, meaning too much current passes through batteries, making them overheat and explode.

Flammable material can shoot out up to three metres and set light to anything combustible it lands on.

The LGA is calling for e-cigarette manufacturers to do more to warn of the dangers by displaying prominent safety warnings on e-cigarette kits and chargers.

“Tragically, at least one life has been claimed and more fatalities could follow unless this issue is addressed rigorously and robustly,” Mr Hilton said.

“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.”

E-cigarettes have rocketed in popularity as a supposedly healthier alternative to conventional smoking and are now used by an estimated 2.1 million Britons each year.

The warning came during national Electrical Fire Safety Week, with the LGA urging smokers to always use the correct charger and follow the manufacturer's instructions, never leave chargers unattended and unplug them immediately when charging has finished.