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Three New Firepot Injuries – is Pourable Gel Fuel Still for Sale?

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You were wrong if you thought you heard the last of exploding firepots last year when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with nine manufacturers, announced a national gel fuel recall. According to the San Diego News, three people were recently hospitalized with severe burns after unknowingly adding fuel to a still-burning fire pot.

Three People Severely Burned by Gel Fuel

It was the Fourth of July and friends had gathered for an evening party in Del Mar, California. Around 7:30 p.m., one of the partygoers noticed that the flame had gone out in the fire pot, a decorative device that helps create atmosphere and ward off insects by burning a gel fuel. The individual added more fuel to the pot, creating a fireball explosion that sent three people to the hospital.

One woman had burns over 50 percent of her body, and another couple sitting a few feet away was sprayed with burning gel fuel, which sticks to the body and stubbornly continues to burn, even if the person drops and rolls.

Incidents like these were commonly reported last year, with victims suffering extended hospital stays and even skin grafts. The June 2011 recall was intended to put a stop to the injuries, but this latest story seems to indicate that fire pots and gel fuel are still being sold.

Numerous Incidents in 2011

On June 22, 2011, the CPSC and nine manufacturers, including Birdbrain Inc., Sunjel Company, Fuel Barons Inc., and Smart Solar USA, implemented a recall of all pourable fuel gels. NAPA Home & Garden also recalled their NAPAfire and FIREGEL pourable gel fuels at that time. In a public warning released the same day, the CPSC stated that consumers should be aware of the burning and poisoning hazards and should never refuel a hot product.

The recall followed a series of reports of injuries. One such injury covered by The New York Times in June 2011 involved a 14-year-old boy who had to fight for his life after he was burned by citronella gel fuel when his cousin tried to light a ceramic firepot in preparation for a backyard wedding reception. A young man from Manhattan was also nearly killed on June 3 when his friend poured more fuel on a pot in preparation for an evening of relaxation with friends. Even after dropping and rolling and trying to smother the flame with blankets, the fire did not go out.

Following these incidents, the CPSC began investigating the products. Some had warnings not to refill the pots if they were still lit or hot, but these warnings were small and placed on the packaging, which was typically thrown away. Many victims soon filed lawsuits against the manufacturers. Meanwhile, the CPSC reports that 86 injuries and 2 deaths have been associated with the fire pots to date.

Fuel Gel Still for Sale?

Before the recall, gel fuel products were sold at locations like Bed Bath & Beyond, Shopko, Restoration Hardware, home and garden stores nationwide, furniture stores, and specialty gift shops, as well as online home and garden catalogs, and at Amazon.com. One quick look at Amazon reveals that some fuel gels are still available there, but these are solid gels or single-use cans, which eliminate the danger of refueling explosions. Other online sites still show typical fuel gels for sale. Unaware customers may also still have the fuel stored in their garages and sheds.

Meanwhile, those who have filed a lawsuit against fuel gel manufacturers claim the companies failed to warn of the serious risks, and seek compensation for life-altering injuries. Consumers can return all bottles or jugs of fuel to the retailer where purchased for a full refund, according to the CPSC.