Your Charleston burn injury lawyers recently learned of a terrifying number of incidents involving ceramic pots filled with flammable gel that have exploded onto consumers and caused serious burns. In some cases these injuries have been life threatening. Since April of 2010 there have been eight instances where consumers have been caught off guard when, either refilling or lighting, their ceramic pots, containing citronella gel to keep the summer time bugs away, have exploded and sent the highly flammable gel onto their bodies.
On May 21, 2011 one of these accidents happened in the Charleston area, West Ashley to be more specific. A woman, her husband, and mother-in-law were sitting on their home’s back porch, relaxing and listening to music after a nice family dinner when the husband lit a ceramic firepot full of citronella gel to keep the bugs away. In less than a second after the flame hit the gel, flames engulfed the woman’s legs causing second- and third-degree burns, according to today’s Post and Courier.
The woman’s husband put out the flames out by wrapping his arms around her and smothering the flames, but he also suffered burns in the process. The woman, who is a schoolteacher, was rushed to Medical University Hospital before being transported to a burn center in Augusta, Georgia for treatment to her severe burn injuries.
Since the accident, she has undergone several surgeries and an extremely painful skin graft to repair her badly burned left foot, which she nearly lost because of the incident. For informational purposes, a skin graft is a surgical procedure that removes a healthy patch of skin from part of the body, called the donor site, and transplants it to the damaged area.
The manufacturer of these products, Georgia based Napa Home and Garden, in response to this and similar incidents around the country have stopped the sales of its gel burners and fuel. The company has hired a third-party expert to review the product’s safety labels and “care and use” information. Additionally, the company has asked its fuel supplier to look into the batches involved in recent incidents to determine if defective products fueled the ceramic firepots.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also opened an investigation into the Napa Home and Garden, as well as other similar manufacturer’s, products.
According to a Napa written statement, the company has sold thousands of these fuel-filled products over the past couple years and a spokesperson has said that there are likely millions of similar products in circulation across the country, when all brands and producers are figured in.
In terms of design and use, the firepots are fairly simple. They are made up of a ceramic pot with a stainless steel cup in the middle, the gel is poured into the steel cup and then lit on fire. No wick is needed, the gel itself is lit, much like the Sterno Cans used by caterers to keep food hot at weddings and other events. This no wick feature can confuse consumers as it makes it difficult to tell when the product is actually lit.
The label on the bottle containing the gel says that the product is “people safe” and that it is a “safe pourable gel.” But the president for Napa Home and Garden says, “‘safe’ was meant only to convey that the fuel, a form of ethanol produced by Fuel Barons Inc. from recycled post-consumer waste, does not emit toxins when it burns.” The gel/fuel itself is more than 90 percent ethyl alcohol, an extremely flammable substance with vapors denser than propane, says the Charleston attorney representing the woman mentioned earlier another woman from Spartanburg who suffered serious injuries in a similar incident only four days after the one in West Ashley.
Sources: Firepots blamed in burns: Accident victims say citronella gel burned them like napalm, A Summer Firepot, a ‘Safe’ Label, and Two Life-Altering Explosions