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

Bella Coola sees biggest eulachon run in almost 20 years

Runs have been slowly coming up since 2012

O’Reilly found guilty of manslaughter in 2014 Anahim Lake murders

The court will set a date for sentencing on April 19

B.C., Alberta clash as Kinder Morgan suspends Trans Mountain work

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley promises “serious economic consequences” for B.C.

Could facial scans and fingerprints make you unhackable?

New biometrics capabilities could be a game-changer for those trying to get on your accounts

West Fraser CEO to retire, COO Ray Ferris to take reins

Ted Seraphim will retire in 2019 after six years at the helm

4-20: Pot activists continue their fight beyond legalization

Cannabis activists say there is still a lot to fight for beyond legalization

Comey memos: Trump talks of jailed journalists and ‘hookers’

A 15 page document written by former FBI Director James Comey about dealings with Trump is released to press

UPDATED: Prince Charles to be next Commonwealth leader

Prince Charles to succeed his mother Queen Elizabeth II as head of the 53-nation alliance

U.S. team wins BC Hockey League championship for first time in 39 years

B.C. players help the Wenatchee Wild defeat Prince George in best-of-seven series

Robot caretakers could be in your future

If the idea of a sex robot made heads turn this week, what about a robot nurse at your bedside?

Woman sentenced to life in Valentine’s Day shooting plot at Halifax mall

An American woman has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for a decade

Countdown is on to the 2018 B.C. Summer Games

Cowichan Valley hosts on July 19-22

Most Read