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Norfolk County Council Trading Standards issues warning after unsafe batteries cause explosions and fires in Swaffham and Watton properties

A warning has been issued after two “absolutely devastating” fires broke out following lithium-ion battery explosions.

Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards team has pleaded for diligence regarding the dangers of non-manufacturer approved replacement batteries after the blazes – one of which took hold in a newly-built Swaffham home.

That fire, which occurred at the start of April, was caused when a cordless vacuum cleaner fitted with a replacement non-manufacturer approved battery was left charging unattended, causing the lithium batteries to overheat and explode.

One of the fires was caused in Swaffham after the batteries inside a cordless vacuum cleaner exploded. Picture: iStock
One of the fires was caused in Swaffham after the batteries inside a cordless vacuum cleaner exploded. Picture: iStock

The internal doors of the house were all left open to air the property out, which allowed smoke to spread quickly throughout the building. Four fire engines attended the scene, and crews managed to bring the fire under control.

Ken Mould, who owns the property in Swaffham, said: “The fire was absolutely devastating. We had left the doors open to air the house out but that allowed the smoke to spread to every room causing an incredible amount of damage.

“I’d encourage everyone to follow the advice of Trading Standards and the fire service to make sure that this doesn’t happen to them. People who think that this won’t happen to them, let me tell you, it can.”

The second fire occurred in mid-April in Watton. It was caused by a malfunctioning cordless vacuum cleaner overheating and exploding when left on charge unattended.

The resulting damage rendered the house uninhabitable, with crews from Watton and Hingham attending and extinguishing the fire.

Sophie Leney, the head of Norfolk Trading Standards, said: “We are aware of several devices which have malfunctioned and resulted in fires and property damage.

“It’s really important that people always check for the required safety marks on items and follow the advice from the fire service.

“You should only purchase products from genuine suppliers, and only use replacement parts which are from a manufacturer approved supplier.”

Terence Pinto, prevention lead at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, added: “These two recent fires highlight the needs for people to take small actions that can help prevent fires.

“It’s important that you have a smoke alarm on each floor, and these need to be located on your escape route. The minimum you should be testing your smoke alarm is once a month, but I’d encourage everyone to test them once a week by taking part in our ‘Test It Tuesday’.”

Trading Standards personnel have warned residents that when buying electrical items, they should only buy from a “reputable retailer” and make sure there is a UKCA or CE mark, which proves that the product meets safety standards.

Staff have also urged caution to those thinking of purchasing any electrical items, replacement battery packs or chargers from third party or private second-hand sellers.

The Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has put together a further list of advice it believes people should follow.

  • Not leaving items plugged in and switched on when unattended, ensure items are switched off and unplugged as soon as they have finished charging or no longer in use
  • Never charging items overnight when you are asleep
  • Always using the charger which came with the item
  • Keeping doors closed to help avoid spreading smoke and fire
  • Making sure you have a smoke alarm on each level, and test it regularly, at least once a month but ideally once a week

Anyone concerned about the safety of an item has been urged to stop using it and contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

People worried about fire safety in the home have been asked to visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/fire for online advice and to see if they are eligible for a free home fire safety visit.

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