Melbourne House Fire Sparked By Hoverboard: How To Stay Safe

25 fire fighters battled to save a family home overnight after a self-balancing board ignited while charging in a bedroom. No one was hurt, but the house was severely damaged. Frustratingly, the Christmas present was said to be purchased specifically because it met Australian battery standards.

Here are some tips to stay safe.

Image credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Ash Ibraheim told ABC Online that he had given three of his four daughters a hoverboard for Christmas. "We heard there were a lot of imported versions that weren't complying, so we wanted to make sure we got the right thing."

Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) investigators are still determining if a unit fault was to blame, and if the use of extension power strips were a contributing factor. These can alter current flow and cause devices to work harder for charge.


Choice says that a problem with several different hoverboards’ charging systems has led to fires in the US, UK and Hong Kong.

“The issue arises when these hoverboards are overcharged — left plugged in until their batteries reach 100 per cent capacity. While we’re used to our laptops, smartphones and tablets having (relatively) smart charging technology inside their chargers that limits the voltage and current output to a trickle once a device is fully charged, these hoverboards are clearly missing this circuitry.”

That’d be why airlines, the UK and many parts of America have banned hoverboards in public. Sorry, Russel Crowe.

Hoverboard Safety Tips

Fires that have occurred overseas from the faulty design of some hoverboard chargers and user injuries through falls. Here are some tips to stay safe.

1. Before Christmas, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned prospective hoverboard buyers to “ensure that the packaging is marked with the Australian regulatory compliance symbol or RCM — a tick surrounded by a triangle.

The RCM signifies that a supplier has taken the necessary steps to ensure the product complies with electrical safety requirements.”

“Overcharging noncompliant devices may cause overheating of the battery and result in a fire.”

2. The MFB is cautioning against letting the devices charge while you’re out of the house. In fact, it’d be wise to be in the same room while they charge.

3. Keep an eye on recalls.gov.au. The AirWalk Self-Balancing Electric Scooter that featured on Scoopon and Catchoftheday was recalled just before Christmas.

4. The ACCC has also urged users to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels exactly when using and charging their hoverboard. “Always use the approved battery charger that came with the product. If there are signs of damage near the battery do not charge the unit until the device is inspected by a professional.”

5. Here’s what Choice recommends when looking for a self-balancing scooter: - An easy to read manual - A short battery charge time - A long distance claim (meaning a longer charge will be maintained from the battery) - An inflatable tyre but make sure they are topped up with air to the required level - Weight of the scooter if you need to carry it - Safety warning features when approaching maximum speed

6. Always wear suitable safety gear like a helmet and always wear shoes.

7. Don’t ride on the road – and know your state’s rules. For instance, NSW Government (and most places around Australia) have banned use on public roads and footpaths.

8. And of course: adults should supervise the charging of all electrical devices for children.

Hoverboards Keep Catching On Fire And The US Government Wants To Know Why

The hoverboard backlash always seemed inevitable. First, there’s the misleading name. Then, there were videos of painful accidents and even hoverboards spontaneously combusting.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is already in the midst of a massive investigation into the safety of hoverboards. This seems like a very good idea! Those two-wheeled death machines are dangerous and there are currently no safety standards in place. Help is on the way.


Comments

    The government spouts the usual nonsense...

    These boards don't run off mains power and arn't a proscribed electrical requirement. So none of them have regulatory compliance marks and they are not required to.

    It would be the wall charger that has to have the regulatory compliance mark. That tells you nothing about the safety of the device and it's battery.

    The seller or importer is responsible. If the father brought from overseas, he is responsible. If he brought locally, the store is reasonsible.

    None of the tips above tell you anything useful. These fires occur due to physical damage when the kids hit things. They knock something so that it bends or cuts insulation, then when it heats during charging there is subtle expansion and a short circuit occurs.

      None of the tips above tell you anything useful. These fires occur due to physical damage when the kids hit things. They knock something so that it bends or cuts insulation, then when it heats during charging there is subtle expansion and a short circuit occurs.

      You could argue that it is a design flaw. If i recall Tesla cars had a similar issue and they've since taken steps to address the problem by adding better protection to the battery (free of charge too!) - same should be applied here.

      Last edited 05/01/16 4:58 pm

      That's not what happened at all...
      The daughters had them on charge in their bedroom while they were sleeping. They overcharged and caused the batteries to get hot and catch fire.

      The devices cannot be left unattended while charging, you need to set timers or reminders and turn them off once they're fully charged.

      "They knock something so that it bends or cuts insulation"

      What insulation? The boards are completely covered by their housing, you can't just "pinch" or "cut" any internal parts as they're protected.

        The daughters had them on charge in their bedroom while they were sleeping. They overcharged and caused the batteries to get hot and catch fire.

        That's not what happened either. The details are in the ABC article:

        Mr Ibraheim said one of the girls had plugged it into the wall just 10 minutes before the blaze broke out. He said two of his daughters were outside playing with neighbours, while two were inside.
        "We're just grateful it didn't happen while the girls were sleeping in the bedroom. It all happened in a matter of eight to 10 minutes."

        They weren't sleeping, and it was on charge for around 10 minutes before the fire broke out.

    [DELETED]

    Last edited 05/01/16 4:58 pm

    People set these things on fire because they don't hover...

    ...false advertisement makes people angry.

    I don't know much about hoverboards. But what kind of batteries do these things use? Are they removable?

    I fly quadcopters and I never leave the batteries unattended when charging, I even have them in fireproof bags as they can explode.

      No, they can't be removed easily.
      Might be able to disassemble them and swap them out if you know what you're doing, but kind of like an iPhone, more trouble than it's worth to swap the battery/screen.

      I have a white one, I monitor it closely and set 30 min interval timers until it's charged.
      They're great fun when used properly while wearing a helmet.

    If charging items are left on carpet or soft furnishings, they can't dissipate heat. Using a laptop on a bed while plugged in, can have the same problems.

      Laptops can't dissipate heat on a bed because the bulk of its surface is in contact with the bed. Elevate the laptop only an inch or two with a platform and there are no heat dissipation issues.

      Needless to say, the only part of a self-balancing scooter that touches the floor are the wheels, which aren't part of its heat dissipation. The rest is elevated and should have no issues dissipating heat.

    According to the news, the problem was with the charger and it didn't come up to Australian standards.

      Do you have a link to that? I've only seen the original articles, nothing about the result of the fire investigation. Curious to see the details.

        It was mentioned in the herald sun today. Page 1 and on page 7. Hope that helps.

    Clearly something needs to be done (like ban them) about these things, but it seems nobody at any level of government is prepared to get off their backsides and do it.

    So they're illegal to travel with, nearly impossible to ride, run a huge risk of personal injury, make you look like a wanker, are impractical on nearly every terrain, set house fires, and may or may not even be outright illegal in your state?

    Excellent. I can't wait for the price on these to go down so I can buy some as Christmas gifts for my hipster trendy friends. They'll love it.

    Last edited 06/01/16 5:18 pm

      nearly impossible to ride, run a huge risk of personal injury, make you look like a wanker, are impractical on nearly every terrain,

      1. They're actually easy to ride within 5-10 minutes if you're not totally retarded. (My 53 year old Father was on it 10 minutes on his own)
      2. Risk of personal injury. So does a Scooter, Bike and a Skateboard. Wear a helmet and guards.
      3. Look like a wanker. Why? Because you don't have one and they look like they're having fun without you?
      4. Different terrain. I've ridden mine across the lawn, along a rocky gravel path, across a broken footpath and up and down slopes. They're no SUV but they're not limited to a flat concrete driveway.

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