Hoverboard catches fire in Lacey

     Images courtesy of the Lanoka Harbor Fire Department.

    Images courtesy of the Lanoka Harbor Fire Department.

    One of the most popular holiday gifts of the year that has become infamous across the county due to explosions and fires is reportedly responsible for a combustion at the Jersey Shore. 

    Lanoka Harbor firefighters responded to a call today for a hoverboard igniting in Lacey Township, according to a posting on the fire department’s Facebook page.

    “Do not leave them unattended monitor them while charging,” the posting states. “Register them for warranties and check for manufacturer recalls.”

    A Facebook comment by a fire department spokesperson says that the device was charging while the residents were home and a portion of a room’s carpet was burned. The fire remains under investigation. 

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    A hoverboard, a cross between a skateboard and a segway, quickly became a trend this year, but at a cost. 

    Authorities have reported numerous fires and emergency room visits due to falls. Airlines have banned the toy, Amazon.com is no longer selling most brands, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is now investigating.

    Experts say the fire culprit is a hoverboard’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, not the device itself. 

    “If there is an inherent defect in the cell, it will go off at some point,” Jay Whitacre, a Materials Science & Engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told Wired. “Small defects in the manufacturing or materials stream lead to the plus/minus sides of the batteries being shorted with each other after a small amount of use. When this happens, especially when the batteries are charged, a lot of heat is generated inside the cells and this leads to electrolyte boiling, the rupture of the cell casing, and then a significant fire.”

    Whitacre says fires from lithium-ion batteries are hard to contain because of the highly flammable electrolytes inside. 

    The batteries, used in a wide range of consumer products, have been responsible for fires and explosions in homes, offices, cars, and airplanes. 

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips:

    Avoid buying the product at a location (like a mall kiosk) or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and how they can be contacted if there is a problem. If you do not think you could find the seller again, were a problem to arise with your board, that should be a warning to you not to do business with them.
    Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board. Charge and store in an open dry area away from combustibles (meaning items that can catch fire).
    Do not charge directly after riding. Let the device cool for an hour before charging.
    If giving a hoverboard to someone for the holidays, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up. Often, the product comes partially charged. Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.
    Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory. While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.
    Do not ride near vehicular traffic.
    This tip needs to be reiterated: It is important to wear safety gear when using a hoverboard. We recommend the same safety gear that you would wear when riding a skateboard — a skateboard helmet, and knee and elbow pads and wrist guards for protection from falls.

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