Vape pen burns West Fargo man's finger after bursting into flames

Published: Jul. 30, 2017 at 11:02 PM CDT
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New research just released says using e-cigarettes to quit smoking is the best way to kick the habit, but the dangers of them exploding are still there. Despite this finding, a West Fargo man says his vape pen exploded, something he says he never thought would happen to him.

David Hitch’s vape pen may be small, but it left a big mark. He had just plugged it in to charge when it started smoking. He quickly unplugged it and moved it to a different spot, and tried to move it outside once the smoke stopped. When he tried to pick it up, the device was about 400 degrees, according to Hitch, and it burned his finger.

Knowing the vape pen was dangerous, Hitch went to look for gloves to move the device, but before he could do that, the pen caught fire. Fumes filled his basement as pieces of the device melted, but having been trained in emergency response by the Navy, he went to work ventilating the room.

“I put my shirt over my nose and covered my mouth and I was trying to open windows set fans up,” Hitch said. Despite the ventilation, Hitch and his wife had to spend the night camping in the backyard to avoid breathing in the fumes. “It took at least 48 hours to get the fumes out and even now today there’s still a slight smell in the basement,” he said.

Hitch isn’t the first to have a vape pen catch fire or explode. Between 2009 and 2014 there were 25 media reports of exploding vape devices, but because no regulatory agency tracked the devices at the time, other explosions may have gone unreported.

The FDA extended regulatory overview of the “juice” that is used in vapes and e-cigarettes last year, but there isn’t any official regulation on the parts of batteries used in the devices. The FDA did, however, release new guidelines on Friday, July 28, to begin regulating the amount of nicotine and the ingredients added to the “juice” used in vapes and e-cigarettes, and hope to better control the advertisement of the products to those under 18 years of age.

While he’s glad he only sustained a small burn, he can’t imagine what would have happened if the vape pen had been in his shorts pocket, saying “You wouldn’t think, you know, something this small could be that powerful,” adding, “I’ll most likely end up quitting, you know. This experience was a wake-up call.”