Woman suffers from burns after cellphone caught fire in an Air Canada plane

TORONTO - A woman suffered burns to her hands after her cellphone caught fire on an Air Canada flight while it sat on the tarmac in Toronto, the airline said Thursday.

The incident happened around 7 a.m. as the plane was at a gate before its scheduled departure to Vancouver from Pearson International Airport, said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said the fire was immediately put out and the plane's 266 passengers did not have to evacuate.

"It was very contained," he said. "However customers seated around the incident were invited to deplane so we could clean up the residue from the extinguisher."

Paramedics said the woman suffered first-degree burns and was transported to a local hospital.

The flight was able to take off for Vancouver after a two hour delay, Fitzpatrick said, noting that the plane — one of the airline's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner models — did not sustain any damage.

Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor, was one of the passengers on the flight, and described hearing yelling on board before seeing smoke in the cabin.

"Any time you're in a plane and you look behind you and there's smoke and yelling, there's a moment of real concern and fear," said Cressy. "But frankly, thanks to the exceptionally professional response of the Air Canada staff, that concern went away and we were up in the air in two hours."

Cressy said that the situation changed quickly from him wondering whether he was in danger to only having to worry how long the delay would be.

"Had this happened while we were mid-flight it would be a very different feeling," said Cressy. "But the fact we were on the tarmac alleviated the situation to some degree."

Robin Smith, a spokesman for the airport's operator, said that while they haven't heard of any phone-related fires at Pearson in the past year, phones catching fire are not entirely unheard of.

"In general terms, they're not uncommon, because there have had to be rules made for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7," said Smith, referencing a phone that was recently banned from certain flights because of a risk of catching fire.

"Lithium battery volatile problems are enough of an issue that it's a common topic of discussion and you see photos popping up online."

It wasn't immediately clear what type of cellphone was involved in Thursday's incident.


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