Vape pen charger explodes inside woman's home

FRESNO, California -- When Kathryn Lemm came home Monday afternoon, she noticed something was off.

"There was a weird smell, a strange smell, almost like a smoky smell, but not like campfire smoke," she said.

She called 911 as she investigated. The stench and smoke led her into a bedroom, and that's where she made the discovery.

"It got stronger and I kept walking back and I'm thinking, 'Okay, there is definitely fire smell here,'" she recalled. "I peeked around the corner and saw a black splatter on the corner and then I yelled, 'Fire!'"

Within minutes, firefighters put the fire out. Detectives discovered the cause shortly after.

"After a while, they brought out the melted lithium battery charger and asked me if I knew what this was," Lemm said.

It was their vape pen charger. North Central Fire inspector, Andy Isolano, says it exploded.

"The batteries exploded and it threw an aerosol can through the ceiling and it was actually lodged in the ceiling, and we found one other battery completely unraveled and it was on a dresser where the jewelry box caught fire," Isolano said.

He said had the aerosol can hit their bed, the outcome would have been much worse. Instead, there are only a few thousand dollars worth of damage.

"My table was burned up, a lot of smoke damage in the house. My carpet has things that were lodged in it. My ceiling is damaged," Lemm said.

Lemm considers herself lucky.

"What if we had been gone another hour," she said. "Who knows what could have happened. That gave me chills."

The fire department recommends people charge their vaping pens in an open area away from other items, especially anything flammable. Isolano says this is another example of how dangerous vape pens can be.

"Obviously it is more dangerous than we thought, we've had incidents where these batteries have exploded, but it is just a reminder that if you are going to have it, maybe put it out on the patio," he said.
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