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Laptop Suspected Source in Blaze: Fire Officials Advise Caution With Chargers

A fire captain is warning users to keep their charging laptops and other electronics off beds and sofas.

A North Carolina fire captain is warning laptop users not to leave their laptops charging on "soft surfaces," after a blaze some suspect was ignited by a laptop left charging on a bed.

No official ruling has been given for the cause of the house fire in Wilmington, NC, that started around 2 a.m on Sunday morning. However, Stephen Vorwerk, who was renting the house, told WECT news that the fire started because a laptop was left charging on the bed overnight.

I spoke with Wilmington Fire Department Captain Ian Tedder, who investigated the fire. Tedder said investigators were "unable to rule out the laptop and power supply as the cause of the fire" and that the two year old laptop is still under investigation.

According to WECT, Vorwerk did not have renter's insurance. The fire destroyed about $3,000 in computer equipment and has covered the entire second story in soot. To help others avoid the same fate, Vorwerk is urging people not to put anything plugged in and charging on a flammable surface.

Although Tedder could not say that the laptop was definitely responsible for the blaze, he agreed with Vorwerk that "absolutely" people should not leave any type of appliance on something that can burn--especially a laptop. Tedder noted that everyone knows how hot they can get, and when placed on a sofa or a bed they are unable to breathe.

Incidents of laptops sparking fires are rare, though, Tedder said.

Previous fires and numerous laptop battery recalls have raised awareness of the incredibly small but possible risk of batteries overheating, as well as steps you can take for laptop battery safety. Now it's time to add to those safety precautions keeping your laptop or smartphone on a hard, flat surface that won't easily heat up and burst into flames.

Follow Melanie Pinola (@melaniepinola) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter

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