Fire at Honolulu apartment blamed on e-cigarette

Published: Sep. 29, 2014 at 8:02 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2014 at 9:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Joanna Spofford left her Moanalua apartment to run errands Sunday, her e-cig vaping device was charging on the kitchen counter. When she got home two hours later, the counter was on fire.

"It was a stack of ash that was just burning," she said.

Her e-cigarette was plugged into an electrical outlet. She thinks it exploded, blew a hole in the end of the device, and fired out a flame like a small blow torch.

"It just shot a spark literally across the counter," she said.  "Everything that we had on the counter, which is a paper bag and a lunch box, just caught on fire."

Spofford called 911, but put out the fire before firefighters got there. She said they told her the vaping device was the source.

"First time they ever experienced that. First e-cigarette fire that they ever had," she said.

Worldwide, there have been about ten documented e-cig explosions and fires.  Spofford's case may be the first e-cig fire in Hawaii.

Scott Rasak of Volcano Fine Electronic Cigarettes said e-cig accidents are rare, but consumers need to be cautious.

"You shouldn't leave them unattended.  You shouldn't leave them on flammable surfaces.  You should always use them with manufacturer charging components. Don't use third-party charging components.  Don't piece them together," he said.

Spofford said she followed the charging instructions to the letter and she learned a lesson.

"I did read that the batteries in the e-cig, they don't have a setting like an iPhone.  When you're charging, it automatically turns off if it gets too hot.  E-cigs don't have that," she said.

Spofford's apartment smells like smoke. Ashe is everywhere.  Fire scarred the wall and damaged the counter.

"The e-cigarette liquid must have caught on fire and it burned a hole right through the counter," she said.

"I was just really happy that no one got hurt in it, and no one died," her daughter, Journey, said.

Spofford describes herself as a heavy smoker.  The e-cig was an experiment.

"I'm not sure I'll be buying another one," she said.

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