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Senior Fire Officers warns of the dangers of electrical chargers

Senior Fire Officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is (SWFRS) issuing a warning on the dangers of electrical chargers after it has seen a recent increase in the number of fires in the homes of South Wales that can be attributed to electrical chargers.
 
These are primarily ‘fake’ or faulty chargers being used to charge mobile phones, electric cigarettes or other similar devices but, even the ‘real’ chargers can pose risks if they are not used correctly or for the device for which they are intended.
 
During the early evening of Monday 10th August a family in Newport had a very lucky escape when a charger they were using to charge an electric cigarette exploded across a bedroom, landing on a bed and setting it alight.
 
Watch Manager Bevan, Malpas Fire Station, SWFRS explains; “We were called to a house fire at Humber Road Bettws, Newport at 18.43 on Monday evening and were confronted by a fire contained to the first floor bedroom. According to the occupant approximately 15 minutes before calling the fire service she had heard a loud pop upstairs. She went to investigate but discovered nothing, however 10 minutes later she heard crackling upstairs and on investigation again she discovered a fire on the bed. She immediately shut the bedroom door, left the premises and dialled 999.”
 
“Once the BA crews had made entry and extinguished the fire which had been contained to the bedroom and ventilated the property, an inspection showed the source of fire to have come from an electric cigarette plugged into a phone charger on the chest of drawers. From my understanding the battery had exploded out of the electric cigarette onto the bed, and the hot battery had ignited the duvet and bedding. The electric cigarette had been bought from the internet some months ago and had been plugged into charger that was not intended to be used to charge an electric cigarette.”
 
The occupant, Mrs Willis said; “My family and I have had a very lucky escape – I dread to think what could have happened if this had taken place during the night when we were all in bed and asleep – I hope this incident goes some way to warn people of the dangers electrical chargers can pose”.
 
So what risks do chargers pose? And what can you do to minimise these?
 
Fire Investigation Officer of the Newport incident, Chris Hadfield explains; “Mobile phones, mp3 players, laptops, tablets, e-readers. The variety and number of mobile electronic devices that need charging is increasing all the time.”
 
This is just one of a number of recent fire incidents that can be attributed to electrical chargers. A couple of the biggest risks posed by chargers is the availability of cheap generic options online and the mis-use ‘official’ chargers and so called ‘generic’ chargers leading to over-heating.
 
Chargers on some auction and websites are often considerably cheaper than their branded counterparts but there is no guarantee they meet EU and UK safety standards. For more information on this and identifying a fake charger please visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk 
 
Generic chargers - advertised as being compatible with a number of devices – are often used incorrectly or for the device. Different devices require different levels of charge, generic chargers run the risk of putting too much energy into a device, causing the battery to overheat.
 
People should also avoid leaving devices to charge unattended, especially overnight and it is important to think about where items are being left whilst they charge. For example, if a product is charged on a flammable surface, that increases the chance of a fire spreading.
 
The advice from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and their Home Safety Department is simple:
 
- Only buy approved chargers for products  
- Only use the charger supplied with a product wherever possible  
- Avoid leaving devices to charge unattended  
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions  
- Contact the manufacturer directly if in doubt