A laptop computer that was left running while it was sitting on a pile of clothes has been identified as the cause of a house fire in western P.E.I. on Monday.
The home in St. Raphael had extensive smoke and heat damage on the inside, but no one was injured.
Deputy fire marshal Robert Arsenault said it was relatively easy to uncover the laptop as the cause of the fire.
"We believe that that laptop, at some point, got warm, and that heat then built up on that pile of clothes, and at some point ignited those clothes and that's what started our fire," said Arsenault.
Jason White of the Charlottetown computer store The Tech Guru said while modern laptops are designed to shut down when they overheat, sometimes that system can fail. The heat from the computers has prompted some manufacturers to discourage people from actually using them on their laps.
"Material for the notebook when you open it, it will say 'do not place on your lap,' or 'use on a sturdy surface like a table,' because a lot of the new computers, especially the budget computers you're going to buy, do have a lot of heat produced by them," said White.
The vents to release that heat are often along the bottom or side of the computer, he said, and if they're blocked by a blanket, clothing, or even a computer case, you can run into problems.
Arsenault said computers are not the only concern. All electronics can produce heat when they're plugged in.
"Anybody that has unplugged their cell phone charger or any electronic device charger mechanism, when you're unplugging it you can feel the heat with your fingers," said Arsenault.
The owners of the St. Raphael home have found another place to stay for the time being, and the Red Cross is helping them out.