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Last updated: 17/02/2020, 2:40 PM

Firefighters warn people to “vape safe” after man badly burnt by exploding e-cig

17/02/2020 11:00
London-wide
Safety warnings

A man was badly burnt and left with scars on his leg after a vape exploded in his pocket when it came into contact with his keys.

Fortunately for contractor Richard Bingham, he was at Whittington Hospital in Upper Holloway working when the accident happened and was immediately rushed to A&E for treatment.

Now the 37-year-old has joined London Fire Brigade in supporting an Office for Product and Safety Standards campaign which launches today (Monday) to highlight the potential dangers of using vapes.

Picture of Richard Bingham who was injured, and his injured leg

The dad-of-one said: “I could hear a hissing and popping and I was looking around asking what it was. Then it stopped and all of a sudden I felt this heat in my pocket and I knew straight away what was happening.

Vape safety

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“I was trying to get my vape out of my pocket but it was burning my hand so I couldn’t get it out. Everyone was helping me as I was trying to get my boots undone so I could get my trousers off but it was too late – I was already badly burnt. Hospital staff were coming out and pouring water over my leg.

“It all happened so quickly but I have never felt pain like it. I can laugh about it now but I’ve never been so scared – it was like a bomb going off in my pocket.”

Richard suffered third degree burns on his left leg and also had blistering to his hand where he’d tried to retrieve the vape. Luckily, he didn’t need to have skin grafts but he has been left with bad scarring and says it could have been even worse if he hadn’t happened to be working in a hospital at the time of the incident last summer.

Cause of the vape fire

Our fire investigators believe the keys in Richard’s pocket may have caused the vape’s battery to short-circuit.

Ironically, Richard’s girlfriend works in a vape shop but he wasn’t aware that coming into contact with metal items could lead to them exploding.

Richard added: “I’ve been vaping for about four years and seen videos of them exploding but you just don’t expect it to go off like that. I must have been lucky as I’ve always had change or keys in my pocket - I just don’t think people are aware of the dangers.

“I did try to give up and haven’t been able to, but I’m so careful now. I’ve got one of the cases to keep everything in and I never carry my vape around with me and if I see other people vaping I walk away.”

Although the Brigade has thankfully only attended a handful of incidents involving vape batteries, firefighters do have concerns about the near misses which haven’t been reported to us.

The Brigade’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “Compared to the number of fires we see caused by cigarettes, vaping could be seen as a much safer option.

“However, we are concerned that there are often cases such as Richard’s where the batteries have short-circuited and gone out but there is a very real potential of them starting a serious fire.

“If you are using vaping products it’s vital you only use the charger it was supplied with and never overcharge it.”

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