Big Recall of Gel Fuel for Firepots

By JENNIFER C. KERR | June 24, 2011

Just over a week after warning about serious burn dangers linked to outdoor ceramic pots known as firepots, the government on Wednesday announced the recall of nearly a half-million bottles and jugs of the gel fuel used in the patio decorations.

“The pourable gel fuel can ignite unexpectedly and splatter onto people and objects nearby when it is poured into a firepot that is still burning,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

About 460,000 bottles and jugs of gel fuel are being recalled. They were distributed by Napa Home & Garden of Duluth, Ga., and sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Restoration Hardware, and other home and garden stores between December 2009 and June 2011.

The problem is that consumers apparently cannot always tell whether the flame in the firepots, which can burn blue or clear with little smoke, is completely extinguished. Pouring more gel on a still-burning pot can lead to dangerous flares or burns, the CPSC said.

The commission said Napa is aware of 37 reports of incidents, including 23 burn injuries to consumers.

Napa owner Jerry Cunningham said the company first started selling the product in late 2009, but only recently learned of a rash of incidents that resulted in injury.

“All of the actions, to our knowledge, were where people are refilling the cups” that hold the fuel in the firepots, he said.

While Napa won’t be selling the bottles and big jugs of gel fuel anymore, Cunningham said the company is looking at the possibility of selling single-use cans of gel fuel.

Consumers are being asked to stop using the recalled pourable gel fuel immediately and return the bottles or jugs to the retailer where the products were purchased for a full refund.

The agency said a retrofit for the Napa-brand firepots is being evaluated and may be available in the near future.

On June 14, the CPSC issued a warning about firepots following two burn accidents in New York. Both victims, a teenager and a man in his 20s, suffered serious injuries.

The potential dangers with the gel fuel prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Tim Bishop, both Democrats from New York, to call last week for a nationwide recall of all forms of liquid firepot fuel.

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