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Fire Involving Hoverboards (Smart Balance Units)

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Occupants escaped from this window
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hoverboard 2

How this fire happened

Henry hoverboard
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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 batteries.  

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  

Safety message

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.

Further information

Do you have a similar story?

We would be interested to hear from you if you have had a similar experience to the fire detailed above, or would like to raise any related matters or even just generally comment on how useful you found our Black Museum.

Please send us your details and a comments via our on-line feedback form.

Acknowledgement

This case study was contributed by London Fire Brigade
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London Fire Brigade

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Latest Update :
23 December 2015
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