Phones top list of fires among electronic devices, says Health Canada

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Health Canada says cellphones and smartphones now take the top spot of electronic devices that are causing fires.

There were 183 fires reported across the country over the past five years involving phones and their accessories.

The second most frequent cause of device fires was thermostats, with 104 reported fires between January 2016 and last September.

Computers, laptops and tablets landed in the third spot with 74 fires reported, while only 34 fires were attributed to TVs.

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Doug MacKenzie, Nova Scotia’s acting fire marshal, said there are several factors that contribute to fires involving phones.

“It could be a damaged cord that hasn’t been replaced,” he said.

“[It could be a phone] left on a blanket instead of a hard desk and create an overheat or just any type of damage to the electric unit itself. It’s as simple as somebody spilling a glass of water on it, [which] could short it out and cause a fire.”

A damaged phone charger was believed to be the reason behind a June 2021 apartment fire in Iqaluit. (Submitted by Layla Autut)

Fire investigators also report damage caused from cellphone devices not approved by the Canadian Standards Association.

For example, the small fire department in North Sydney, N.S., has extinguished about four or five fires related to charging devices known as power banks.

“We’ve had a number of fires with cellphones and the cellphone accessories with charging cords and with the power banks,” said Lloyd MacIntosh, chief of North Sydney Fire & Rescue.

MacIntosh said that when it comes to phone accessories, it’s not always clear if fires are caused by the device’s quality or how they are being used.

How to avoid fires

Either way, he suggests buying Canadian-inspected products and reading instructions on proper use.

“The future is probably the smart home,” he said. “And I can only imagine that somewhere down the road, we’ll be dealing with the things on a very, very regular basis.

“It’s not a big, big concern for us right at this moment. But I imagine in the future as they become more and more plentiful, they will be.”

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