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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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Warning: Do You Still Have Firepots Waiting to Explode?

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With the warmer weather on its way, families will soon be thinking about outdoor barbeques, picnics, and neighborhood gatherings on the lush green grass. Lawn chairs and paper plates are likely to be part of the scenery, but what about firepots?

Convenient ceramic pots that provide warmth and flame on patios and decks, or firepots, came into national focus in 2011, when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with nine manufacturers, issued a recall of the gel fuels used to power the pots. “Due to the serious risks of flash fire and burns when consumers add pourable gel to an already burning fire pot,” the CPSC stated, “consumers should immediately stop using the pourable gel fuel.”

Even with the recall, however, some families still have old firepots sitting in the garage or shed, waiting to be pulled out and lit up again. For those still unaware of the risks, here’s a brief overview of what happened to prompt the recall in the first place, and why it’s best to return these pots to their manufacturers.

Firepot Explodes without Warning

At the time of the recall in 2011, the CPSC stated that the fuel gel had been linked with 65 incidents resulting in two deaths and 34 hospitalizations. Victims suffered second- and third-degree burns on the face, hands, chest, arms, and legs.

A total of 37 of the burn injuries and two fatalities occurred with products manufactured by Napa Home & Garden, though other manufacturers like Bird Brain Inc., Sunjel Company, Lamplight Farms, and Smart Solar also recalled some of their fuel gels.

That year, The New York Times reported on two victims who ended up severely burned after an incident with a firepot. A 14-year-old boy from Long Island was just a bystander at a backyard wedding when his cousin tried to light a firepot. He ended up fighting for his life after the pot exploded, covering him with the flaming fuel gel. Because the gel is sticky, it’s difficult to remove from skin and clothes, which prolongs the burn and creates more damaging results.

That same weekend, a 24-year-old man from Manhattan was relaxing with a friend when a firepot exploded and nearly killed him, seriously wounding his friend.

Unseen Dangers Lurking in the Shed

Victims who have filed firepot lawsuits against the manufacturer claim the products were poorly labeled, and lacked adequate warnings about the risks. Consumers had no idea how dangerous the pots could be, particularly because they have no wick, making it difficult to determine when they are actually lit.

More than 80 percent of Fuel Baron’s pourable gel, for example, consists of ethyl alcohol, which is colorless and extremely volatile. Barbara Satterfield, a Florida woman who suffered burns to 30 percent of her body allegedly because of a firepot accident, experienced the danger firsthand. She and her husband filed suit against the manufacturer.

Check and Double-Check

If you have firepots around your home, it’s best not to use them. In addition to the 2011 recall, there have been a number of others, including a 2013 recall of Big Lots Tabletop Torches. “Once lit,” the CPSC states, “the glass citronella table torches can flare up and emit burning lamp oil onto consumers and property, posing fire and burn hazards.”