Orange Coast College student catches fire after e-cigarette batteries explode

Thursday, March 24, 2016
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A student at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa caught fire after e-cigarette batteries exploded in his pocket, according to fire officials.

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) -- A 20-year-old Orange Coast College student is recovering after e-cigarette batteries burst into flames in his pant pocket, according to officials.

Authorities said the man was skateboarding on campus after 4 p.m. Tuesday, when without warning, he was on fire.

"He was kind of stunned and, 'Oh my gosh, what just happened,'" Capt. Chris Coates with the Costa Mesa Fire Department said.

Firefighters said the e-cigarette device was in one pocket, but it was two spare batteries in his other pocket that suddenly ignited.

"One of his friends just tried to put out the fire with his shirt, just trying to help put out the fire so he doesn't get hurt," OCC student Brandon Edwards described.

Paramedics transported the victim to the burn unit at UCI Medical Center in Orange with first and second-degree burns to his thigh and groin.

Authorities said the charred batteries were too damaged to tell their make or model, but said cheaper batteries have caused fires in the past. Problems have also happened when batteries touch other metal.

"Those batteries, if they come in contact with either metal, copper, keys for example or coins, if you have those in your pocket, that's what's causing the issue," explained Coates.

Last month, security video captured a Kentucky man, Josh Hamilton, as he reached into his pocket at a convenience store counter.

An e-cigarette battery exploded in his pocket and he frantically tried to remove his pants as his clothing caught fire. Hamilton suffered second-degree burns.

Coates urged e-cigarette users to store batteries separately from each other and to keep them away from any metal.

He said if users are charging the batteries, make sure someone is home in case something were to happen.

"We don't recommend charging them overnight and leaving them plugged in and walking away for obvious reasons," said Coates.