SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Good 4 Utah) – A teenager is getting national attention after her cell phone caught fire underneath her pillow while she was asleep. Ariel Tolfree fortunately wasn't hurt, but it's a close call nobody wants to wake up to.
“I smelled like a really strong burning smell,” said Tolfree, who is from Texas.
The 13-year-old is now getting over that terrible wake up call, but is still shocked by what it did. “The part where the phone was, was burned. There's even a hole in my mattress. So everything was all like charred,” said Tolfree.
Ariel says she was using a replacement lithium ion battery in her phone, and suspects it overheated. At least one major manufacturer warns that covering a device with bedding poses a possible risk of fire or explosion.
“It was like a surreal scene to realize there was a smoldering fire in your child's bedroom. Made you feel sort of sick to know something like that happened,” said Ariel’s father, Thomas Tolfree.
Luckily the teen wasn't injured but experts say this cell phone danger can become a reality and to keep batteries away from extreme heat, liquids and metal objects, such as coins, keys or jewelry and try not to drop your device. Local fire officials say it isn't just cell phones you need to be careful with.
“Electronic devices by nature are designed to ventilate air to keep cool as they charge. We've seen several issues where people have covered up their devices not allowed them to release a heat associated with them and have had problems,” said Battalion Chief Brian Anderton with Unified Fire Authority.
Other problems Unified Fire has seen, people using chargers or chords not designed for the devices they are charging. Although this wasn't the case for Tolfree, she's learned a different lesson after a very close call.
“I have learned not to keep my phone in my bed, just put it next to you on the floor or on the night stand,” said Tolfree.
Experts say lithium batteries can get up to 350 degrees and are used in everything from your cell phone to your tablets. Unified Fire Authority also says they have seen a lot of problems with E-cigarette chargers overheating and exploding as well.