Student's Laptop Catches Fire During Remote School Class, Warning Issued to Parents

A North Carolina school system has issued a warning to parents after a student's Chromebook laptop caught fire. In an email, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district said parents should not leave laptops plugged in and unsupervised for long periods of time, particularly overnight.

The parents of the student sent pictures of a damaged laptop to WXII 12 News, an NBC-affiliated local TV network in Winston-Salem, reporting that their son was using it for a Zoom class when the Chromebook started to smoke and spark.

The student was using headphones with a cord plugged in, and upon seeing the smoke, yanked the wires off. In doing this, his Chromebook fell from the desk where he was working and onto a carpet, leaving burn marks on the laptop.

"Never leave Chromebooks plugged in and unsupervised for long periods of time, like overnight," a spokesperson for the school system posted on its Facebook community page.

"Also, it is best to always use the devices on surfaces that allow for proper ventilation like a desk or table. Prolonged charging and limited ventilation can damage the battery, the operating systems and cause the machine to shut down completely."

The school system's technology page did mention the fact that, like many laptops and mobile phones, Chromebooks have lithium-based rechargeable batteries. These can be hazardous and become a fire hazard if they are defective, damaged, or used improperly.

Third Grade Student
Goolsby Elementary School third grader Ava Dweck, 9, takes an online class at a friend's home during the first week of distance learning for the Clark County School District amid the spread of the coronavirus on August 25 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A student from North Carolina recently had his Chromebook spark and smoke as he was attending a Zoom class. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In 2019, the laptop of a third-grade student at Lewisville Elementary School, also in North Carolina, began smouldering. The class had to be evacuated.

Following the incident, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system supposedly recalled some 20,000 Chromebooks.

Also that same year, a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas left her phone charging on her mattress and returned from a shopping trip with her daughters to find a smoke-filled home after her device caught fire in her bedroom.

Back in 2018, a flight at Toronto's Pearson Airport had to be delayed after a passenger's phone caught fire, injuring him. The flight, which was carrying 266 passengers, departed for Vancouver with a two-hour delay.

One phone has suffered more than others when it comes to catching fire. Some 2 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 model phones were infamously recalled in 2016 after batteries reportedly caught fire a number of times.

The Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Authority proceeded to issue a blanket ban on taking the smartphone on any air transportation in the United States. Portable lithium-ion batteries were also banned that year by the authorities.