SAFETY messages must be displayed on electronic cigarette kits to combat the “spiralling upward trend” of fires linked to the devices, fire bosses have urged.
E-cigarettes or related equipment, such as chargers, were involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years, The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month.
Now the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents all 46 fire authorities in England and Wales, said this could be the “tip of the iceberg” and warned many cases may be going unreported.
There have been several high profile fires involving e-cigarettes in recent months, including some in Yorkshire.
Just last Monday, South Yorkshire firefighters warned over the dangers of e-cigarettes after a van was destroyed in a fire when one of the devices was left charging. The Ford Transit was wrecked in a blaze on the driveway of a house in Herringthorpe, Rotherham.
And in April, dramatic CCTV footage captured the moment a North Yorkshire barmaid narrowly escaped when an e-cigarette exploded in flames in a packed pub and rocketed towards her. Laura Baty, 18, was serving a customer Buck Inn Hotel in Richmond when she heard a huge bang and saw the device shoot in her direction.
The flames singed her arms and set her dress on fire as she tried to get out of the way.
In what is thought to have been the first fatality involving an e-cigarette in Britain, David Thomson, 62, of Wallasey, Merseryside was killed when an e-cigarette on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using in August.
The LGA say many incidents are sparked by users connecting e-cigarettes to incompatible chargers, and want manufacturers to do more to warn of the dangers.
Jeremy Hilton, chairman of the LGA’s Fire Services Management 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.
“We are urging e-cigarette manufacturers to introduce clear, prominent and graphic new warnings spelling out to users the dangers of using incompatible chargers with e-cigarette batteries.”
Mr Hilton warned more deaths could follow unless action is taken.
He said: “Tragically, at least one life has been claimed and more fatalities could follow unless this issue is addressed rigorously and robustly.
“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.”
Data from 43 fire services showed that since 2012 they had attended 113 calls to fires related to e-cigarette equipment.
From the services that provided data, e-cigarettes were cited as being involved in eight fires in 2012, rising to 43 last year, while there have been at least 62 so far this year.
Emma Apter, of the charity Electrical Safety First, said they were “increasingly concerned” about the number of incidents involving e-cigarettes.
“Recent events have shown that the simple act of charging one of these items can be deadly, so steps do need to be taken in order to make consumers more aware of the dangers,” she said.
“However, people can also help themselves in drastically reducing the risks. The advice is clear: do not use cheaper, unbranded chargers and do not leave e-cigarettes unattended whilst charging, especially overnight.”