State fire commissioner warns against giving hoverboards as gifts this holiday season

SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- The start of the holiday shopping season is known as 'Black Friday.'

However, the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner suggests keeping one item off the gift list this year.

The gift giving advice is meant to ensure the holidays are not only happy, but safe.

Hoverboards remain a popular gift, but Pennsylvania's Fire Commissioner Tim Soloboy advises to choose something else, if you'd rather have a visit from Santa than the local fire department.

"Instead of giving them something where they're not working and being lazy, and riding on something, get them a pedal bike or a scooter to exercise themselves on," Soloboy said.

Fire investigators blame hoverboards for two devastating fires in central Pennsylvania this year.

Two young girls were killed after a hoverboard caused a Harrisburg house fire in March 2017.

Lt. Dennis DeVoe was struck and killed while responding to that fire.

In October 2017, officials say a hoverboard caught fire while being charged inside a Manchester Township, York County home. The fire destroyed three home, and left 13 neighbors without a place to live.

"We heard from the consumer product safety folks.... It was kind of a knockoff from black market hoverboards that came from China," Soloboy said.

Some brands may be safer than others.

"If you think you need to get a hoverboard for your child, then make sure it's a tested UL one, that has all the proper testing that has been done with it," Soloboy said.

The fire commissioner said buying a UL tested device is not always a guarantee of safety.

"The ones that are being processed and made properly, and have testing and things done. I mean there's still a concern, because these batteries, you're seeing it now in laptops, cameras, and other things where these batteries are malfunctioning," Soloboy said.

There is one thing existing hoverboard owners could do to stay safe.

"When you're charging it, just to be safe, put it outside. Charge it outside on a back porch or somewhere where it's not going to be affected. In case you're sleeping, and it does catch fire, it would be on the outside," Soloboy said.

Consumer Product Safety Commission information warnings on the LayZ brand hoverboard may be found here.