Rechargeable electronic devices blamed for increase in house fires in Flanders
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    Rechargeable electronic devices blamed for increase in house fires in Flanders

    House fires in Flanders have increased from 4,362 in 2015 to 6,270 in 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    An increase in house fires in Flanders has been blamed on the fire risk rechargeable electronic devices pose in the home, a fire brigade expert has warned.

    The number of house fires in Flanders increased from 4,362 in 2015 to 6,270 in 2017, according to figures collected by the Civil Security Knowledge Center based on the intervention reports of approximately 90 per cent of fire brigade zones.

    Tim Renders, a fire brigade expert for the Flemish Brabant East fire brigade, blamed the charging of electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, electronic bikes and hoverboards for the increase of house fires in the region.

    Renders said people lack the common sense to unplug their electronic devices during thunderstorms or when going away on holiday.

    “A lot is plugged in and that is a fire risk,” he told VRT News. “We notice, for example, that sometimes devices are charged by a sofa or a bed, on material that is highly flammable. That is obviously not a good idea.”

    Renders advised people not to charge their phones at night: “When you are asleep you don’t smell anything. The smell of smoke won’t wake you. Equipment should be charged during the daytime under the supervision of a smoke detector.”

    Renders also called for a better categorization of the type of devices causing house fires.

    “I actually want to know which device caused the fire, not only which device but also which brand and type,” Renders told VRT. “Then we can map that out, put it in a database and do any recall actions.”

    Renders also argued for the gathering of more accurate figures and more fire research to be conducted, including that 100 per cent of fire brigade zones in Flanders share their figures with the Civil Security Knowledge Center.

    The figures collected by the Civil Security do not specify the severity of the fires. Figures about victims of domestic fires are also not officially available.

    Renders kept track of the number of fatal fires in Belgium for several years as a result.

    “This year, we have already lost 46 lives due to house fires in Belgium,” Renders told VRT. “That means that every seven days someone dies in a house fire, a very worrying figure that we want to do something about.”

    Sheila Uría Veliz
    The Brussels Times