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California blaze probe clears mobile phone

Nokia 2125i not source of fire

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The mobile phone which appeared to have caused a fire in which a California man suffered serious burns has been cleared of blame for the blaze.

Despite previous claims by Vallejo Fire Department investigator and spokesman Bill Tweedy that the Nokia 2125i could have been the only possible source of the fire, tests subsequently proved the phone was malfunction-free.

The incident occurred last Saturday night, when 59-year-old Vallejo resident Luis Picaso, who had been sleeping in his house on a white plastic lawn chair, was rudely awoken by a fire which melted the plastic chair, ignited his "polyester-blend slacks" and nylon soccer jersey and caused "second and third-degree burns across at least half his body".

His phone had been in his right trouser pocket, prompting Tweedy to conclude: "There were no matches. 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."

Following the fire, Nokia engineers flew to Vallejo to test the device. They found that the phone's circuitry was undamaged and the battery still in working order.

Tweedy said: "When we reinstalled the battery, the phone still booted up. If the battery had malfunctioned or the phone had short-circuited, it wouldn't have worked anymore. And it did, so we could rule out the phone as an ignition source."

What exactly did provoke the combustion remains a mystery. Tweedy admitted that the fire had been so intense, any evidence had probably been destroyed.

The victim, meanwhile, is currently in a "critical but stable" condition at in Sacramento's U.C. Davis Medical Centre. ®

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