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Mum warns families following hoverboard fire

28 May 2019

A MUM from Widnes is warning other families to be vigilant after a fire involving a popular electronic toy put her children’s lives in danger.

Shortly after 8pm on Monday 13 May a two-wheeled self-balancing electronic scooter, which are commonly known as hoverboards, exploded as it was being charged in the living room of the family’s home in Masefield Avenue.

Five children, aged between five and 10, were all asleep upstairs at the time.

Thankfully dad Robert Jones, 33, was awake and heard the hoverboard crackling and then saw it explode as he went into the living room to investigate.

The explosion activated the smoke alarms in the house and also alerted neighbours to the resulting fire.

The neighbours helped Robert wake up the children and carry them outside to safety.

The family correctly followed Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s advice of getting out, staying out and calling the fire service out.

Firefighters from Widnes and Penketh isolated the gas and electricity supplies to the house and extinguished the fire before it could spread beyond the living room.

The crews also cleared smoke from the house with a large fan and assessed the family and the neighbours to see if they were suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Thankfully no-one required medical attention but the fire caused significant damage to the living room, particularly the floor, walls and dining table.

Mum Claire Bevan, 30, said: “I was not at home at the time of the fire. I returned to find fire engines outside my home and that my sleeping children had been rescued by my partner Robert and neighbours.

“As a family we are aware of the possibility of hoverboards being charged causing a fire.

“We bought it from a reputable retailer and it was only left charging for 20 minutes.

“It just goes to show that frightening things you read about in the news can happen to you.

“The incident has left the whole family extremely shaken up and emotionally scarred. I am struggling to sleep at night following the fire, as are the children. They used to be in a routine of being in bed by 7pm every night and going straight to sleep, but now they are often still awake past 10pm.

“But the incident could have been far worse. We would never have left the hoverboard charging whilst we went to bed as we are aware of the dangers of doing that. I dread to think what the consequences could have been if we weren’t so knowledgeable about hoverboards and if the fire had started later at night.

“A charging hoverboard exploding like that could have killed another family, especially if they didn’t have smoke alarms.

“I urge other families to never leave a hoverboard unattended whilst it is charging.”

An investigation has been carried out to establish the cause of the fire.

It is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.

Widnes Fire Station Manager Stuart Devereux said: “Hoverboards have become extremely popular among children in recent years and there have been instances of the electric scooters hitting the headlines nationally and internationally for causing fires.

“There are three main causes of fires involving lithium ion batteries such as those used in hoverboards: the wrong charger being used, mechanical damage to the battery and a manufacturing defect.

“The lithium ion batteries used in hoverboards and other rechargeable items contain chemicals which are flammable.

In the event of a short circuit or an over-charge situation, they can heat up very quickly and burst into flames. The resulting fire, although relatively small, can be very intense and will produce dense smoke.”

Hoverboards do not have handles. Riders balance on the platform and are propelled by two wheels.

Anyone planning to buy a hoverboard or other rechargeable electrical devices such as laptops, e-cigarettes and mobile phones is urged to:

  • Make sure that it has a British or European safety mark on it and carries CE certification - all electrical equipment must comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

  • Only buy from a reputable retailer you know and trust - that way if something goes wrong you can contact the retailer or manufacturer to deal with any problems

  • Never purchase through unknown sellers on online marketplaces, social media or from a market stall

  • Check that it has a three pin plug which states it is made to BS 1363 and that there is a fuse fitted inside the plug – with no fuse there is a risk of a fire caused by overheating

  • Ensure that the input voltage range of the charger includes 230/240V, 50Hz (the UK’s nominal voltage)

  • Never buy unless it has instructions on how to charge it safely

  • Look out for signs that of it coming from an untrustworthy source, such as poor quality construction and finish, misspelt brands or product names or instructions with poor English translations

  • Check that the packaging is of good quality - avoid plain cardboard boxes not marked with a manufacturer’s name or trademark and always check for contact details on the packaging or instructions

  • Check that the instructions are for the product in the box

  • Ensure that details of the manufacturer, including its contact details, are provided

  • Be aware that faulty products will often be missing warranty cards, instructions and other associated literature.

Anyone with a hoverboard in their home should follow this safety advice:

  • Never leave the hoverboard charging unattended - there have been a number of incidents nationally and internationally in which they have overheated whilst charging and caused a fire

  • Do not charge a hoverboard when you go to bed

  • Never leave a hoverboard on charge for extended periods as the charging cut-off device can fail, causing the battery to overheat

  • Be careful where you charge the hoverboard - follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on charging and never charge it near soft furnishings or other combustibles

  • Only use the charger supplied with the hoverboard - connections of other chargers may seem similar, or even identical, but the power rating may be different, which can cause a fire

  • If possible, charge the hoverboard in a garage on a concrete floor

  • If the hoverboard’s battery is damaged in any way make sure you dispose of it immediately

  • If you suspect you have a sub-standard or faulty hoverboard, stop using it immediately and report the fault to the manufacturer or retailer (if known) and the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Station Manager Devereux added: “Incidents like this emphasise the importance of having a working smoking alarm on every floor of your home and having an effective plan of action to escape should a fire ever start in your property.”