Hoverboard Spontaneously Combusts While Charging in Westchester Home: Firefighters

Firefighters in one Westchester town are warning residents not to charge electronics while they're away after one of this year's hottest holiday gadgets combusted in one home over the weekend.

The Chappaqua Fire Department released photos of a self-balancing, two-wheel electric scooter -- colloquially referred to as a "hoverboard" -- that caught fire at a home on Sunday night.

Firefighters say that the device was charging when an electrical malfunction caused it to go up in flames, causing smoke damage and singing the wood floors underneath. Photos of the damage show a blackened floor and the device burnt and covered in ashes.

"If these people weren't home, they would have had significant fire damage to their home and may have even lost their home," Chappaqua Fire Chief Russell Maitland said. 

No one was injured in the fire. The family has been temporarily displaced and was staying in a hotel while repairs were being made to the home, according to a work crew at the home Wednesday. 

There have been multiple reports of hoverboards catching fire or exploding across the country this holiday season.

"At the fear of being Scrooge around the holiday time, I think people need to realize that this isn't an isolated incident," Maitland said. "It's not something you want to roll the dice on and hope that yours isn't one of the ones that's gonna catch fire." 

Jacob Casimiro fixes, sells and rides hoverboards in Manhattan, and owns 10 of the devices. He says overcharging them can cause problems. 

"You gotta pay attention to it," he said. "You put it on the charge for three hours, tops. Don't charge it for more than three hours. They don't blow up like that." 

The National Association of State Fire Marshals urges buyers to look for safety compliance marks, allow time for the device to cool off after use, not leave it unattended while charging and not charge it overnight. 

The gadgets are illegal in New York City because they are motor vehicles that cannot be registered with the DMV. People caught riding the boards on city streets or sidewalks could be fined as much as $200. 

The scooters, which don't actually levitate, can cost upwards of $1,000.

"Every kid wants this," Casimiro said. "It's like the Tickle Me Elmo of the year."

Growing safety concerns could quash the sales of the hot-ticket items, however. Late Wednesday night, online retail giant Overstock.com announced it has decided to stop selling the items.

“Customer safety is always our top priority,” Overstock.com Senior Vice President Mitch Edwards said in a statement. “With the continued emergence of news reports highlighting safety concerns with ‘hoverboard’ self-balancing electric scooters, we have made the decision to remove all similar products from our website as a precautionary measure.”

The company is also contacting customers who have purchased a hoverboard from the site to offer an option for refunds. 

Contact Us