A MAN is warning people after an e-cigarette charger exploded and set fire to his Runcorn flat.

The blaze destroyed the kitchen of Steven Stringer’s home in Canal Street.

He only moved into his ground floor apartment two weeks ago.

Mr Stringer, aged 54, said: ”Everything was brand new.

“The fire has completely wrecked the kitchen and there is smoke damage everywhere.

“It takes about four hours to charge an e-cigarette. I thought it would be safe to leave it charging when I nipped out for half an hour.

“I walked to the Devonshire pub to watch a football match.

“Within 30 minutes, my friend rang me and said: ’There’s a fire engine at your flat’.”

Firefighters had to smash his front door open, as they discovered thick black smoke seeping from his home.

Mr Stringer, a process operator at Ineos, said: “I do shifts and could have been at the back in bed when the fire broke out.

“I have been using e-cigarettes for three years and this is the first time I have had any trouble.

“I’m still in shock, particularly as the charger had clearly exploded.

“I found bits of it at the opposite side of the kitchen.”

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus tackled the blaze shortly after 4pm on Sunday, April 19.

They used a high pressure fan to clear the smoke.

Head of Prevention and Protection, Keith Brooks said: “This homeowner has been very lucky indeed and the incident highlights the fact that e-cigarettes can cause fires. 

“It is important that people ensure they use the correct chargers and never leave them charging overnight.

“While the dangers of lit cigarettes are well known, we are now warning that the battery powered electronic versions also cause fires.

“This is a prime example of what can go wrong.

"The homeowner did have working smoke alarms fitted which is always encouraged, along with ensuring that they are tested regularly."

Mr Stringer added: “It’s not until something like this happens that you realise they can be dangerous.

“There is no chance I will ever do this again.”

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales is looking into manufacturers introducing clear warnings to users of the dangers of using incompatible chargers with e-cigarettes.

There is cause for concern over the spiralling upward trend of fires connected with e-cigarettes and much more needs to be done to combat it.

It is expected that the number of fires will continue to rise as more smokers switch to e-cigarettes but there is no way of knowing the true figure as it is believed that many cases are going unreported.

Advice has been issued nationally to e-cigarette users after reports of several devices exploding while charging, causing minor fires:

•Never leave e-cigarettes on charge unattended for long periods

•Do not mix components of different e-cigarettes

•Only use the charger supplied

•Ensure you purchase your e-cigarette from a reputable source

•Check the e-cigarette carries CE certification

•Test your smoke alarm regularly

•Close doors to prevent fire spreading

•Contact Trading Standards over any e-cigarette safety concerns.

For more information, visit the website cheshirefire.gov.uk.