Action 9 investigates electronic cigarette charger fires

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Lake County woman claims the electronic cigarette that's sold as a safe tobacco alternative is anything but., claiming the device started a fire in her home.

Cheryl Whitacker showed Action 9 the battery pod that was charging the e-cigarette when it exploded.

Whitacker said she heard a loud bang in a bedroom at her home in Groveland near where her sister had left an e-cigarette plugged in to charge.

“We heard the explosion and then the fire alarm went off,” said Whitacker.

Whitacker said intense flames were coming from the carpeting where the battery landed.

“If I had not been home, my house would have burned down," she said.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine to create vapor that is inhaled. They're sold as safe, but there are many reports online of batteries overheating and catching fire.

On YouTube, a small explosion can be seen right in front of a bartender’s face at a British pub. It was blamed on an e-cigarette.

“There are no warnings on there. The only instructions are how to put it together to smoke it," said Whitacker.

The device was made in China and sold by Matrix Distributors, which did not return Action 9's Todd Ulrich’s calls.

Three months after the fire, Action 9 bought that same product at a convenience store. There was a change on the packaging that read, "Do not leave unattended" while charging.

The tobacco Vapor Electronic Association told Ulrich there were only 12 fires nationwide and blamed it on consumers using the wrong chargers.

Whitacker’s sister had plugged the e-cigarette into an over-the-counter charger used for most phones and tablets.

Some manufacturers have added warnings to limit battery charging to a couple of hours.