"Once the gas starts to leak, it's ignited by the unit itself and tends to burn the hose away from the propane tank, and then it acts almost like a torch," said Chapel Hill Fire Capt. Norman Clark.
Coleman recalled the product last July. Officials claim fires caused by the device damaged two homes in Chapel Hill. Donald Forman witnessed one of those fires last year.
"I saw this fire, yellow sheets of fire, rising above the house at the corner," he said in a June 2002 interview.
Chapel Hill fire investigators said a newer version of the Coleman burner caught fire near a home Tuesday.
"That actual unit had been recalled, redesigned and then rereleased and the unit that actually malfunctioned was one of the new design models," Clark said.
Coleman said it will begin investigating Tuesday's incident. The company said in a released statement that "we have not received any information from fire officials or the residents of a May 6, 2003, fire in Chapel Hill, where a Mosquito Deleto unit and a tree were damaged."
The company also said that "Mosquito Deleto units being sold today, when used in accordance with their instructions and warnings, are safe to use."
Coleman's Consumer Service is available to answer questions about the Mosquito Deleto at
Clark said the units are "wildly sold."
"They were carried by a lot of the major home improvement warehouses," he said, "so we don't know how many of these units are out there."
Besides the potential safety hazard, state bug experts said they are not convinced the device really protects you and your family from being bitten.
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