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After receiving 20 reports of liquid fuel erupting and causing serious injuries, Big Lots is recalling about 30,000 tabletop torches, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The devices have a wick and burn liquid citronella fuel, and were made in India and sold at Big Lot stores between March and June 2013. Consumers can return the products to Big Lots stores for refunds.

Organization Recommends Customers Stop Using Torches

According to the CPSC, “once lit, the glass citronella table torches can flare up and emit burning lamp oil onto consumers and property, posing fire and burn hazards.” The organization has recommended that consumers stop using the products.

Big Lots sold both small and large torches, with the small ones being about 5 inches high and 5.5 inches in diameter, and the large ones standing about the same height but being about 10 inches in diameter. Both types have a fuel container in which consumers add citronella fuel for burning.

North Carolina Man Suffers Severe Burns

Among the 20 reports of tabletop torch injuries is the case of Bill Trull, a North Carolina man who was getting ready for dinner when he and his wife joked about who was going to blow out the torch. They decided it would be Bill, but when he went over to blow it out, the torch allegedly exploded, knocking the pictures off the wall in the house.

In the midst of the flames, Bill yelled for water while his wife called for help. A neighbor threw Bill a fire extinguisher, and he put the fire out, but not before suffering severe burns on his legs, face, and other areas of his body. The injuries were serious enough to keep him out of work for a month. The Mecklenburg County Fire Marshal’s office determined the device was defective, and began working with the CPSC on an investigation that led to the recall.

Previous Recall on Fuel Gels

This recall is similar to the one the CPSC implemented in June 2011, when together with nine manufacturers, they announced a national gel fuel recall. The fuels were used in so-called firepots that provided warmth and flame on patios and outside barbeque areas—much like the Big Lots tabletop torches. The gel fuel had the added benefit of warding off insects, but was soon tied to dangerous burn injuries.

Pourable fuel gels made by BirdBrain, Napa Home & Garden, Smart Solar, and others were taken off the market because of similar explosions and splattering of the burning gel. Customers reported second- and third-degree burns to the chest, face, hands, arms, and legs, made worse because the fuel was sticky and would adhere to skin, making it more difficult to put the fire out.

Since that recall, some victims have filed personal injury lawsuits, claiming that the manufacturers failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks on their products. Even some customers who were careful to be sure the fire was out before refueling experienced injuries when attempting to re-light the devices.

For More Information

The CPSC has advised all consumers who own a Big Lots tabletop torch to return it to the company for a full refund, or to call Big Lots toll-free at 866-244-5687 between 9-5 Eastern Time Monday through Friday. Customers can also visit the company’s website at and click on “recalls” at the bottom for more information. Chaffin Luhana has represented many victims of firepot and fuel gel fires and are available for questions at 888-480-1123.

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