How this fire happened
Defect within the battery pack/charging process
The fire occurred in a Mid-terraced house of two floors 5m X 12m built circa 1950, fire damage was confined to 10% of the ground floor, with the remainder of the property suffering from heavy smoke damage.
The two smart balance ‘hover board’ units were placed on charge for approximately 1 hour prior to the fire. They were both rated at 36 volts and came supplied with a 42 volt charger. Both were on charge in the living room to the side of a sofa unit.
The two hover boards from this incident were of slightly differing designs, one charger had a poorly made Chinese fuse which was intact, however the second charger was found to have no fuse fitted within the charger plug.
The numerous batteries that had been ejected from both the units during the fire were on inspection, found to be unmarked with any manufacturer’s details.
16 of the 32 recovered batteries had failed catastrophically (bursting or exploding, ejecting their contents) with the other 16 sustaining significant damage but being more or less structurally intact.
Both hover boards were seized by investigators and subjected to a laboratory examination, which concluded that the most likely cause was a failure within one of the battery packs, which probably happened during the charging of the
The effect it had
The fire was discovered by the occupants, who heard ‘banging noises’ - most likely due the batteries exploding.
Both occupants found themselves trapped on the first floor and had to escape from a first floor window.
One further adult male sustained a burn to his right hand
Please take care when charging these devices – don’t leave them on charge when unattended or while you’re asleep, or for longer than recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
This incident was in an occupied property that had a smoke alarm fitted, however the alarm failed to operate due to an inoperative battery. This highlights the need for working smoke alarms.
Fire and rescue services are seeing a rapid rise of incidents caused by these boards, often while on charge.
The cause can vary, with defective or unsafe plugs, counterfeit battery packs and in some cases, unsafe electronic circuitry in the boards.
There are many different types and models, and people are advised that if they have one, to check on Trading Standards and product recall websites in case they have been recalled.
If you think you have a fake or unsafe model, don’t use it and get in touch with Trading Standards.
Finally, always buy electrical products from a reputable outlet and if you have any doubt about its safety do not use it and take it back to the seller.
Don't let the idea of owning a hoverboard go up in smoke - be aware of the risk of fire.
As well as the advice which our colleague followed above, please consider the following:
Watch the press and trading standards websites for product safety messages and recalls.
Never leave hoverboards charging overnight or when you are out.
Only use the charger that was supplied with the product.
Stop using your hoverboard immediately if it begins to overheat.
Make sure that your home is fitted with sufficient smoke alarms which are kept tested and maintained.
Make sure that you and your family know what to do in case of fire and that you have an emergency plan which includes alternative escape routes, not having to search for keys or alternative phones.
National Trading Standards
How this fire happened
A member of staff at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service thought that they had taken all the appropriate measures to protect their family’s safety when they bought their son the popular hoverboard toy.
They took time to research their choice of product and ensured they followed the advice below:
They purchased the hoverboard from a reputable UK website retailer
They ensured the product had a UK 3 pin plug fitted
They checked that all of the relevant safety markings were genuine
They also took the added precaution of purchasing a small fire extinguisher and trained their son to use it in case of an emergency.
Despite all these precautions, one day whilst being used by their son in his bedroom, the hoverboard overheated and started to smoke.
The device was rapidly removed from the house and the fire service were quickly called, however, this incident could all too easily have been so much more serious if for example, this had happened at night when the family were asleep.
The effect it had
"Our son really wanted one of the hoverboards that all his friends had.
We were aware that there had been some fires involving hoverboards so we have a small fire extinguisher which was kept wherever the hoverboard was, and we taught my son how to use it just in case.
We also told him not to charge it unless we were in the house. We bought it from a reputable internet company.
My son was on the hoverboard upstairs in his bedroom when he shouted for help.
My husband ran upstairs just as my son had pulled the pin on the extinguisher whilst smoke was coming out of the wheel of the hoverboard.
My husband picked it up and threw it in the garden.
It continued to smoke and we thought it may explode. We called 999 and the fire crews came out to deal with it.’