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)

VIDEO: Overheated vaping unit causes house fire in Nanaimo

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 caused by an overheating vaping device and Nanaimo Fire Rescue is warning that malfunctioning e-cigarettes could start more fires in other homes and even aircraft.

The fire broke out in the bedroom of a home on the 1600 block of Chick-A-Dee Crescent shortly before 10 p.m. Monday.

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.

All occupants escaped safely, there were no reported injuries and the homeowners are insured, but Millbank is warning that the particular brand of vaping device, which was purchased 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 depressed 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 depressed 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 the fire in the Chick-A-Dee Crescent home spread rapidly 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Nanaimo to hold invasive plant ‘drop zone’ event

Public invited to bring invasive plants to Bowen Park’s upper picnic shelter Saturday, May 30

International students ‘biggest unknown’ in Nanaimo school district’s budget planning

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board will look at preliminary 2020-21 budget this week

Car cruise in Nanaimo lifts seniors’ spirits during pandemic

Cars 4 COVID includes Nanaimo Seniors Village in its route

Health authority extends administrator’s mandate at Nanaimo seniors home

Island Health says ‘significant progress’ being made at Nanaimo Seniors Village

Petition underway to get RDN to improve Sandpiper water quality

Campaign urges regional district to make issue a priority

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Family pledges to match up to $50,000 in donations to Chemainus Theatre fund

Donald Hilton and Joyce Hilton helping theatre through a time of COVID-19 cancellations

Nanaimo school district planning to demolish building on Selby Street

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools estimates tearing down building will cost $900,000

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

VIU online cooking show keeping students connected during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Culture Kitchen’ features students making dishes from their home countries

Rail foundation delivers donations to Island food banks

ICF shares $14,000 among seven food banks, including Nanaimo’s Loaves and Fishes

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

Most Read