A house fire in Atlantic Sunday afternoon appears to have been caused by an overheated, charging cell phone. Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees told KJAN News the house at 409 Poplar Street was owned by Ryan Paul, but he recently sold it to a dentist next door. The house was slated to be demolished.
McNees said Paul and a female companion were in the process of moving their belongings out of the home and had stopped for a brief nap, when they woke up to find their bed on fire. The couple escaped the home with only minor injuries, but most of their belongings were lost to the flames.
Atlantic Fire arrived on the scene at around 12:30-p.m. Flames were reported to be coming out from under the shingles of the structure when authorities first arrived on the scene. When firefighters punched out the glass on a second story window facing Poplar Street, thick black-gray smoke came pouring out. The fire was declared under control by around 1:50-p.m.
An investigation by McNees and Atlantic Police Officer Paul Wood determined that a cell phone, which was plugged into a portable charger designed to jump start car batteries and provide power to cell phones and other portable devices, over heated and likely exploded. All utilities to the home had been shut-off, according to McNees, which ruled out an electrical or gas-related cause.
McNees said the fact that a cell phone battery can overheat and explode, is a good reason people should not keep the devices on their beds or near flammable materials.