Nine companies recall fuel gel for firepots

Posted September 1, 2011 7:02 a.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2011 5:40 p.m. EDT

— 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.