A MOTHER says she had a lucky escape after her electronic cigarette exploded while charging, setting fire to her kitchen while her children slept upstairs.

Gina McGee was sleeping on her sofa while her husband and three children were asleep upstairs when she was woken at 2.30am on Tuesday (October 1) by the smell of the thick black smoke that was filling her kitchen.

After plugging her ‘Bellos’ e-cigarette in to charge in her kitchen overnight, the device had malfunctioned, exploded and landed in her dog’s bed – who was asleep with Mrs McGee on the sofa at the time - before setting fire to both the bed and a plastic washing basket that had been left nearby.

The 37-year-old of Darlington said: “The smoke woke me up; it was just like I was dreaming breathing in smoke.”

After trying to put the blaze out with a wet towel, she called the fire brigade and got her husband to take her three children to her mother’s house nearby. “I was petrified. I just keep thinking it could have been a hell of a lot worse,” she said.

“It was awful; I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. If I hadn’t been sleeping on the sofa downstairs it could have been much worse.”

The flames scorched her kitchen and melted her worktop, as well as causing smoke damage to her walls and slate floor.

The e-cigarette was bought for £10 by her mother, Susan Irvine, a week earlier from a market stall at Darlington’s weekly Monday market, and Mrs McGee urged others who may have bought a similar item to be careful when using it.

An officer from Trading Standards has since taken the product away for examination.

A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said officers will be visiting the stallholder to find out where the product came from and to get further samples for testing.

“Findings from this will let us know if it is a one-off faulty item or if there is a design fault with the product. We will then take appropriate action,” she said.

“Any electrical item can develop a fault. As a general safety rule, we would advise people to follow the instructions supplied with the product and not to leave any electrical device, including mobile phones, unattended when it is being charged.”