Laptops on Beds Can Lead to Fires, Safety Officials Warn

A fire in Manassas, Va. that caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage traced to laptop

It’s a dangerous but common combination: a running laptop and your bed. 

If you leave your laptop tossed on your bed, what happened to a condo in Manassas, Va. could happen to you, reports News4 Consumer Reporter Liz Crenshaw.

On May 20, a laptop left running on a bed for 16 to 18 hours, with a recalled battery, apparently caused a fire that burned part of a two-story condo down to its frame. The damage was estimated at $40,000 and three people were displaced.

"It completely burned out that room," said Frank Teevan, fire marshal for the City of Manassas.

The laptop's owner had put her Hewlett Packard Pavilion laptop on her bed on top of a comforter on her mattress at night. The next morning, she left to go to work -- and left the laptop running, still on her bed.

"It got so hot it ignited the blankets and the comforter on the bed, and just went from there," Teevan said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that between 2005 and 2010 multiple manufactuers recalled a million laptop batteries.

"Unfortunately, in this case, the owner didn't know that she had a recalled battery," Teevan said.

But even laptops without recalled batteries that are left on soft bedding can be dangerous. Computer technicians warn that laptops get hot, and the air intakes that keep them cool usually are on the bottom or side.

Consumers can search for recalled batteries on the CPSC's SaferProducts website.

And safety recommendations with any laptop suggest running the machine on a hard surface so air can cool the machine, and making sure that the vents allow airflow at all times.

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