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Victims Continue to Get Burned Despite Firepot Gel Fuel Recall

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According to a recent article in USA Today, consumers are pushing for a ban on firepots. These decorative candle-like ceramic products create an atmospheric or insect-repelling flame through the use of gel fuels. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), these pots have caused serious burn injuries to over 80 victims and at least two deaths so far.

On June 22, 2011, the CPSC along with a number of manufacturers recalled all the pourable gel fuel used to light these firepots. This fuel was blamed for the majority of the incidents, as it is extremely flammable and sticks to skin, similar to napalm, making fires extremely difficult to put out. Recent reports, however, indicate that some people continue to get burned despite the recall.

Illinois Attorney General Calls for Ban

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated in 2011 that gel fuel should be banned because it is not safe. In addition to its tendency to stick to skin while burning, it creates other hazards because of how it burns. A firepot flame may appear to be out even when it is still burning, which means consumers may try to refill it with fuel even while it still contains an open flame. The result can cause an explosion capable of burning those who may be standing several feet away.

For example, a three year old child was on fire for several minutes after she accidentally bumped a table holding a firepot. The flaming gel covered her face and body. Her mother was also burned while trying to save her. The child has undergone several skin repair procedures in the hopes of reconstructing her face.

Injuries Still Occurring Despite Recall

Despite the recall in 2011, it seems that many consumers are still unaware of the risks, and have not returned the fuel they may have previously purchased. A recent report from California told of three people that were burned by firepot fuel gel at a July Fourth party this year. One of the partygoers noticed the flame had gone out and added more fuel creating a fireball of explosive fuelgel. Three of those attending the party went to the hospital.

It seems that the manufacturers of these firepots have not given up on their products. According to the minutes from a February 21, 2012 meeting at the CPSC National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, MD, representatives from firepot companies Bird Brain and Sterno demonstrated new firepots that employ single-use canned fuel gels. These are supposed to be safer because they do not require refilling, which allegedly reduces the risk of explosion.

As to the concerns about spillage, the companies presented study results showing that a 90-degree tilt for 30 seconds resulted in no spillage. The CPSC said they would consider the information in developing a possible safety rule for firepots and gel fuels.

Consumers Respond to CPSC with Votes to Ban Gel Fuels

For those who have been severely burned, the thought of improved gel fuels probably brings little comfort. Suffolk County in Long Island, New York, has already banned the products, yet thousands of families enjoying outdoor picnics, barbeques, and parties this summer are still unaware of the dangers and have disasters waiting to happen stored in their garages and sheds.

The National Association of State Fire Marshals called for a ban on the products in February 2012. As of July 2012, the CPSC has yet to act. Two gel fuel manufacturers, Napa and Fuel Barons, have filed for bankruptcy. Still other manufacturers, like Bird Brain, continue to operate.

According to a USA Today report, of 37 responses to the CPSC rulemaking request put out in December 2011, 35 stated gel fuels for firepots should be banned.

The CPSC warns consumers to keep burning pots away from children and pets, and to refrain from refilling a burning or hot pot.