Area Fire Officials Remind Public Of Phone Charger Safety Hazards

Jul 17, 2017

There are several posts circling around social media about cell phone chargers becoming fire hazards. Two area fire officials say there are ways to address that kind of fire prevention.

DeKalb Deputy Fire Chief Jeff McMaster says a plugged-in cell phone charger can become a fire hazard if it keeps drawing power, overheats, and it’s charging in a place where there’s a lack of ventilation – like underneath your pillow or blankets. He says the hazard is still there even if the phone is plugged in.

McMaster recalls an incident where someone left a phone to charge and it happened to be under a pile of blankets. 

“And it did heat up and, even though there was no large dollar loss – fire dollar loss – it still destroyed the phone and damaged some of the linens. So it has happened a couple of times in our jurisdiction,” McMaster said.

McMaster says the DeKalb Fire Department gets a call like that about once a year. Rockford Fire Prevention Coordinator Tim Morris Jr. says a call like that comes into the Rockford Fire Department every few months.

“So thankfully, we don’t see a ton of these, but they do vary on the damage they can cause. All of them can cause fire, and all of them can cause death, so we have to treat it just like we do anything else and be very cautious,” Morris said.

McMaster and Morris say it helps to have a phone or any electronic device charge on a non-flammable surface, like a wooden bed side table. They say to not charge the device overnight.

They also say it helps to have approved chargers from the device’s company or at least make sure the cable is UL certified. McMaster says one of his firefighters even had an experience where an off-brand power cable started a fire.