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As early as 2005, the feds were warning consumers about the fire hazards and related dangers posed by rechargeable batteries – which are now ubiquitous in smartphones, laptopsand sundry other personal electronic devices.

For example: in March 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a set of “cell phone safety tips” and the first item on the list was this: never use incompatible cell phone batteries and chargers. Whichever brand of phone you have, stick with manufacturer-approved batteries rather than buy from third-party sources, as the manufacturers can't guarantee that third-party devices are compatible with their appliances.

Last week, a family in Texas had a scary reminder of this, when a 13-year-old girl's smoldering smartphone caught her bedding on fire while she was asleep. Luckily, the girl was unhurt, and the fire put out before it destroyed anything more than her bed and bedding (plus the phone).

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Ariel Tolfree told the Fox News affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth that she fell asleep with her Samsung Galaxy S4 on her bed, and at some point in the night it wound up under her pillow. She woke up briefly when she thought she smelled something smoldering, but went back to sleep only to wake up again some indeterminate time later.

“I didn't think much of it, so I went back to sleep, and then I woke up again and [the smell] was more prominent,” Tolfree said.

Tolfree's father, Thomas, suspects that the smartphone overheated, which made the battery swell and start a fire. He also admitted that the phone had a third-party battery, according to the Fox4 report.

Ignored warning

A Samsung spokesman noted that the user guide for the S4 specifically states that covering one of their devices with bedding or other material could restrict airflow and cause a fire.

Samsung has agreed to replace Tolfree's damaged bed and bedding, and requested that the damaged phone be sent to them so they can investigate. Ariel Tolfree, meanwhile, said she learned that people should not sleep with their smartphones in their beds, but keep their phone on a nightstand instead.

In addition to this, you should also make sure that, whatever brand of phone you have, you only use manufacturer or carrier-recommended batteries, chargers and other accessories. And don't cover your phone, laptop or any other battery-rechargeable device with blankets, pillows or anything else that restricts airflow and traps heat.

Finally: make sure you look for and read any safety warnings in your owner's manual. Even if the manufacturers wanted to list those warnings, cigarette-style, on the boxes, there probably isn't enough room to print them all.


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