‘Everything has its ignition point’

A Red Deer fire prevention officer has not come across a blazing smartphone in his 30 years on the job.

A Red Deer fire prevention officer has not come across a blazing smartphone in his 30 years on the job.

But Wes Van Bavel says it is not as odd as it might seem.

He said lithium-ion batteries, which power cellphones, have the potential to overheat and start a fire, especially when placed under something like a pillow or when leaning against something.

“Everything has its ignition point,” he said. “If that product gets to ignition point, yeah it can start a fire.”

A Rimbey teenager was badly burned after his iPhone 5c caught fire while he was sleeping late Sunday night. His phone was charging on a night stand next to his bed.

Van Bavel said it takes quite a bit of heat for that product to break down and start liberating the gases that burn.

“That phone would have to had to really be hot to start heating a product up to get to that point to ignite its gases,” said Van Bavel. “Who knows? We would have to do an investigation.”

But he said anything can happen when you are talking electronics, including product malfunction.

He said some people tamper with their devices to ‘jailbreak’ (modify the operating system), replace batteries and fix problems.

The user or the manufacturer could be the culprit in this case.

Van Bavel estimated that fewer than three per cent of all fires in Alberta are electrical in nature.

“It’s very rare,” he said. “We just don’t have outlets or wiring in homes starting on fire. Usually it is an appliance or something plugged into (the outlet).”

Recently a fire at a Red Deer restaurant started when a cooler was pushed against a plug in the wall, dislodging it so that some combustibles caught on fire.

“It was an electrical fire but it was an accident,” he said. “It was a user fault. When we get to these electronics, it’s rare that we come across these things.”

Users should not be worried about plugging in their devices overnight or for long periods of time, he said.

“Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations with any device you buy,” he said. “If your cellphone company says do not plug it unattended, I would be surprised.”

Van Bavel encourages people to use ULC or CSA-rated accessories to go with the devices.

“There should not be any products sold in Canada that are not ULC or CSA rated,” said Van Bavel. “The knockoffs are fine to use as long as they meet those ULC or CSA ratings, which they all should.”

He doesn’t suggest putting the devices under pillows or blankets while charging.

But, “Don’t be afraid to plug it in,” he said.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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

Just Posted

Activists against open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains hung a protest banner outside Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s Rocky Mountain House constituency office. Exploratory coal leases in the Nordegg area were recently granted by Nixon’s UCP government, and many local residents say they feel betrayed, as they had been promised eco-tourism opportunities by Clearwater County. (Contributed photo).
Anti-coal mining activists post banner on Environment Minister’s Rocky constituency office

Activists call for clean water protection, ban on strip mining

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

(Image from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer students enter Skills competition

Regional competition begins this month

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

opinion
Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Dallas Stars' Mark Pysyk (13) and Tampa Bay Lightning's Ondrej Palat (18) compete for control of a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) grabs a loose puck as Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) battle for the rebound during first-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Most Read