A few months ago, we warned of the risk of using Napa firepots due to the risk of severe burns. Those concerns were largely based on the use of what are known as gel fuels, which caused firepots to explode when refueling an already lit pot. At the same time, the CPSC issued warnings to consumers about the use of gel fuels in general. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is now working with nine different manufacturers of gel fuels to issue recalls.
According to the CPSC press release, consumers should immediately stop using pourable gel fuels due to serious risks of flash fire and burns when consumers add pourable gel to an already burning fire pot. The pourable gel fuel can apparently ignite unexpectedly, splattering onto people and objects when it is poured into a firepot that is still burning. Currently the CPSC has received information on 65 different incidents, including 2 deaths and 34 victims who were hospitalized for second and third degree burns.
When these flash fires do occur, the properties of the gel fuel make them particularly dangerous. For example, the basic “stop, drop and roll” safety advice that we all learned does not work on gel fuel fires. Likewise, it is very difficult to extinguish them with water; and patting the fire off of someone can spread the gel and the fire onto the person who is trying to assist. The best guard against the gel fires is an ABC- or BC- rated dry chemical or dry powder fire extinguisher.
The manufacturers involved in the current recall are: Bird Brain Inc.; Bond Manufacturing; Sunjel Company; Fuel Barons Inc.; Lamplight Farms Inc.; Luminosities Inc.; Pacific Décor Ltd.; Real Flame; and Smart Solar Inc. The CPSC warns however, the consumers should cease using gel fuels regardless of the manufacturer, since all pourable gel fuel poses the risk of flash fire. The recall involves 2 million units of different types of gel fuels sold in plastic bottle sand jugs. The products went on the market in 2008 and sold for between $5 and $20.
While some of these companies are working on a design modification for caps that would prevent flash fire hazards, in the meantime, the products are being pulled of the shelves. Consumers are also advised against modifying the fuel bottles in any way or replacing the fuel with other flammable materials.