Electronic cigarettes -- better known as e-cigarettes -- may not carry a "surgeon general's warning," but the Casper Fire-EMS Department has few warnings of its own about their use known as "vaping," according to a news release.

The e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that simulates tobacco smoking by producing a heated vapor of a flavored liquid that resembles smoke. E-cigarettes have become  popular as an alternative to tobacco smoking, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

While not as hazardous as traditional cigarettes, there's still some drawbacks.

In the past six months, the department has responded to several incidents resulting from malfunctioning and exploding e-cigarettes, according to Casper Fire-EMS spokesman Jason Parks.

One of those incidents involved a significant fire in an apartment building, and others were fires that did not grow.

So Casper Fire-EMS offers this information and these cautionary notes:

  • According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes and that number is growing rapidly.
  • Fires and explosions are rare, but improper charging can increase those risks.
  • Most incidents happen during charging. E-cigs use lithium-ion batteries for a power source. The battery configuration in these devices allows for a weak point at the bottom end of the device.
  • Failure occurs when the batteries are over-charged and over-heated. When that happens, the batteries look like “flaming rockets” for several seconds.
  • That can cause a significant fire, serious injury or death.
  • The batteries must be charged according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The use of power sources not approved by the manufacturer also can result in an explosion and fire.
  • The use of after-market USB chargers is not recommended unless they meet manufacturer's specifications.

The Casper Fire-EMS Department encourages safe charging practices for any e-cig or vaping device: Never leave the device unattended while charging and do not charge the device while you sleep at night.

For more information regarding e-cigarette safety visit the U.S Fire Administration website.