Experts warn of fire dangers from electronic devices

SILVIS, Ill. (KWQC) — Colder weather usually has us talking to you about fire safety when it comes to turning on your furnace, using your fireplace or a space heater. But there are potential causes of fire you might not expect; the electronics you may be buying this weekend, like your laptop computer and cell phone charger.

We saw an early morning fire at a Silvis apartment building. The Fire Chief tells us it was apparently started by a laptop. And last week in East Moline, one person escaped from a house fire started by a cell phone charger.

Firefighters across the country have been seeing the same thing. In Manassas, VA, “It got so hot it ignited the blankets and the comforter on the bed and just went from there,” Fire Marshal Frank Teevan told our sister station after a laptop ignited a fire that burned part of a two-sotry condo down to its frame.

Residents in Silvis reported their laptop was also left running on a couch. And while most of us have gotten used to using them anywhere, experts say we shoudn’t leave laptops unattended on beds or sofas. They get hot, and vents to keep them cool are typically on the bottom or side. Laptops are designed to be used on hard surfaces. Blocking the vents or fans can cause a computer to overheat, and if it’s sitting on fabric, that can ignite.

And it’s not just laptop computers, firefighters say you need to watch cell phones and iPads too. Those devices use chargers, which also generate heat while in use. They too, need space to breathe.

Our experts recommend unplugging chargers that are not in use because they use electricity even when a device isn’t charging. And make sure you check those, as well as power cords, on a regular basis for damage. Throw them out if they’re frayed. Damaged cords can put out electrical sparks and ignite a fire.

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