‘It seemed like a vape pen:’ Retired firefighter shares what started Spirit flight fire

A flight from Dallas to Orlando was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport because of a fire that started inside an overhead compartment.


Retired NYC firefighter, Rocco Chierichella, who was on board that flight Wednesday night, immediately stepped in when he saw all the smoke inside the plane’s cabin.

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“My wife Debbie said to me “fire”, and I just instinctually jumped over the seats because I had to get to the isle,” Chierichella said.

He told Action News Jax when he got to the item on fire, it looked like a vape pen.

The plane traveling from Dallas to Orlando made an emergency landing at JIA, and when it landed, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue responded.

According to JFRD, the fire started in an overhead compartment, because of a battery in a passenger’s personal item.

JFRD did not name what that battery was.

But Rocco, who dealt with the flames firsthand and even burned his hands, described it like this:

“What it seemed was it was a backpack that had either in it or outside of it a vapor smoking device vape, with a battery and wires wrapped to it,” Chierichella said.

Related Story: Spirit Airlines makes emergency landing at Jacksonville airport due to battery fire in overhead bin

Action News Jax reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration to see how you can travel safely when carrying batteries on board.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and vape pens are allowed on board but must be carried on one’s person or in a carry-on, according to the FAA.

The FAA also says passengers should take effective measures for preventing accidental activation of the device’s heating element. Some of which include removing the battery from the electronic smoking device or separating the battery from the heating coil.

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“This battery charging equipment and electronic, this is dangerous stuff,” Chierichella said. “It’s not the first time we heard of these things heating up and causing fires, how could they allow this stuff to be isolated in luggage.”

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