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Boston to consider new rules for hoverboards

Exploding self-balancing scooter blamed for North End fire

Boston fire officials released this photo of a hoverboard, which they say caused aBoston Fire Department

Days after a hoverboard explosion caused a North End fire that displaced 10 people, Boston is considering restrictons on the motorized scooters ridden like a sideways skateboard.

“I don’t know if we need to ban them, but I certainly know we need to take a closer look at these devices and the appropriate uses of these devices, especially ... in public areas,” Councilor Tim McCarthy said Wednesday.

The matter will be taken up by the council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation and Transportation and could be discussed in a future hearing.

The move comes after a fire in the North End on Sunday night, which fire officials blamed on a hoverboard explosion in a third-floor bedroom. It was the first fire in the city linked to one of the devices, officials said. No one was injured but the blaze caused a reported $100,000 in damage and forced 10 residents out of their homes.

Previously, a number of Boston-area schools banned hoverboards on campus, and the MBTA announced in February it would ban them on its property. Dozens of major airlines have banned them on flights.

The lithium ion batteries that power the hoverboards have been known to combust at random– sometimes while the scooters are plugged in, while being ridden or even while sitting idle.

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They rose to prominence last year, but their popularity skyrocketed during the holidays, when they were among the hottest gifts of the season.

Complicating matters, the scooting machines come from a number of manufacturers overseas, making them notoriously difficult to track and control for quality.

Self-balancing scooters this year came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which warned in February it would seize faulty products or recall ones produced domestically.

The commission in its report counted 52 cases of fires caused by hoverboards, resulting in more than $2 million in property damage.

RELATED: Citing safety concerns, schools around Boston ban hoverboards

Boston already has a banin place on the use of Segways, the stand-up motorized scooters, with an exception for guided tours registered with the city.

McCarthy, who also cited the risk of injuries to those who ride them, said the city should consider similar restrictions for the trendy hoverboards.

After all, McCarthy said, "Segways aren't blowing up in people's closets and in people's bedrooms."

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