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Nine companies recall fuel gel for firepots

Posted September 1, 2011

— Nine companies are recalling about 2 million bottles and jugs of the gel fuel used in outdoor patio decorations known as firepots because of the risk of serious burns.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the gel fuel has been linked to several dozen cases in which people were burned when they couldn't tell whether the flame was out. Pouring more gel on a burning pot can lead to dangerous flares or burns.

WRAL's 5 on Your Side has been investigating the firepots since June and has documented several cases where people were burned when using the gel to refill a firepot where the fire wasn't extinguished.

Dr. Scott Colquhoun was using a firepot at his Carolina Beach home last May. He said the fire appeared to be out, but when he went to refill the pot, the bottle exploded! The fuel and flames coated his clothes.

"I rolled and I rolled and rolled," he said. "I still couldn't put the fire out."

Similar explosions have killed two people and burned at least 75 others.

"This is an extremely serious issue and that is why we are urging consumers to take this recall seriously and to heed our warning," said Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the CPSC.

The companies in the new recall are Bird Brain Inc. of Ypsilanti, Mich.; Bond Manufacturing of Antioch, Calif.; Sunjel Company of Milwaukee; Fuel Barons Inc. of Lake Tahoe, Nev.; Lamplight Farms Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis.; Luminosities Inc. of St. Paul, Minn.; Pacific Decor Ltd. of Woodinville, Wash.; Real Flame of Racine, Wis.; Smart Solar USA of Oldsmar, Fla.

The commission says Marshall Group of Elkhart, Ind., pulled out of the public announcement at the last minute. The agency was continuing talks with the company about a voluntary recall.

Tenenbaum urged people to stop using the pourable gel fuel and to contact the manufacturer or distributor for a refund.

"It's a dangerous product that we want to warn consumers to stop using," she said. "Stop, drop and roll or trying to smother it (the flames) does not work."

Flash fires created by the thick, alcohol-based gels are difficult to put out with water and more effectively stopped with dry powder extinguishers, she said.

The commission began investigating firepots a few months ago and issued a flash fire hazard warning on pourable gel fuels in June.

20 Comments

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  • james27613 Sep 7, 2011

    Avoid ethanol based gel fuels.

    Even if the flame is extinguished, the heat in the pot
    can cause the ethanol vapors to ignite and the container rupture, coating you in gel fuel and causing burns.

  • watertiger13 Sep 2, 2011

    Is it just the refills that are recalled because the 'Bird Brain' firepots containing a container of fuel are still on sale at Kroger on Creedmoor and Strickland?

  • TITAN4X4 Sep 1, 2011

    WRAL, What happened to my comment on sterno? Was it to firey to post?

  • hantonmasonry Sep 1, 2011

    Dumb people get a neat product removed. Common sense is you don't pour gas on a burning fire.

  • Dark_Horse Sep 1, 2011

    @davisgw
    Thats what I was thinking. Everyone who got hurt did so because they didnt follow the directions written on the packages.

  • stupidbrainchild Sep 1, 2011

    What happens when you poor gas on smoldering fire? It can blow up in your face! Make sure there is no heat coming out of the firepot before you poor more fuel on a fire.

  • davisgw Sep 1, 2011

    The gel fuel is not at fault for the careless handling by users. All the information was there but the "victims" failed to follow directions. What a waste of WRAL'S resources.

  • discowhale Sep 1, 2011

    lee0908,
    there are many chemical fires that burn that clean. But there are ways to tell if it's burning. Plus, putting the lid on, and waiting a few minutes to let the unit cool down would solve this. For all intents and purposes this stuff is legal napalm.

    It's a jellied, burning, fuel! That alone kept some people from buying it, myself included. It looked like the kind of stuff people trust, but don't understand.

    Finally. These people are not victims. That word gets WAY over used in modern days. There was a time, not long ago, where that word was followed by the unspoken thought that there was a purposed threat by an outside force for someone to be a 'victim'. There were murder victims, robbery victims, etc. Where is that purposed threat here?

    I'm betting, not one of these companies set out to intentionally burn anyone. It's a sure way for people to not use your product again to set your customers on fire. Don't you think?

  • discowhale Sep 1, 2011

    Once again, companies are held hostage by the foolishness and lack of common sense of reg'lar folks.

    And they kept saying "explosive" like it would go up on it's own. What next? No gasoline or kerosene without a permit and special training?

    This is one of those times where I'll just shake my head and wonder aloud about average 'mericans. But I certainly hope that if / when the semi-expected collapse from the CDC's Zombie Apocalypse finally gets here, that these people have tasty brains.
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    mchowes,
    I'm betting these people fill up running lawn mowers, cars, trucks and kerosene heaters too. They didn't read the gel directions, why would they read any others, right?

  • mchowes Sep 1, 2011

    I use these firepots with the gel fuel and have never had a problem. Whenever it needs to be refilled, I just put the cap on it for a minute to make sure the fire is out and then refill it. I find it hard to believe someone could be hurt by this if they are following the directions and using it properly.

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