Cell phone ignites, burns man, investigator says
The phone spontaneously combusted while in the man's pocket, the official said.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
SAN FRANCISCO -- A cell phone in the front pocket of a man's pants spontaneously combusted, quickly ignited his clothes and left the man with second- and third-degree burns across at least half his body, according to investigators.
Luis Picaso, 59, was apparently sleeping on a white, all-plastic lawn chair in his room Saturday night and was awakened as he was ablaze, said Vallejo, Calif., Fire Department investigator and spokesman Bill Tweedy.
By the time authorities arrived shortly before midnight, Picaso was on the floor of the bathroom. He was in stable condition Sunday, Tweedy said Monday night. The plastic lawn chair -- a petroleum product causing a high-heat fire -- had melted. Picaso's soccer jersey -- made of quick-burning nylon -- was almost completely burned away.
"I did find one scrap on the floor," said Tweedy.
"Cotton holds up the best," said Tweedy. "The only thing he had on that was cotton was his underwear. Everywhere the nylon was, that's where he got burns."
Evidence points to phone
Tweedy said that from the burn patterns on Picaso's clothes and body, it was clear the fire began in the right front pocket of his polyester-blend slacks.
"There were no matches," Tweedy said. "There were no lighters. He wasn't smoking. The only source was the phone that was in his pocket. I know he didn't spontaneously combust."
Federal authorities have reported very rare instances of cell phones catching on fire. Between roughly 2002 and 2004, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission received 83 reports of cell phones catching on fire. In 2004, there were an estimated 170 million cell-phone users in the United States. Today, there are 219 million.