Gel fuel linked to flash fires, severe burns recalled

Nine manufacturers will recall a pourable gel used to fuel decorative fire pots after explosions severely burned dozens of people, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday. The gel fuels indoor and outdoor decorative lighting basins sought for their ambience but has been linked to unexpected explosions that splatter skin and furniture with the molten, long-burning substance, the CPSC said. The substance, likened by victims to napalm, sticks to the skin and is difficult to extinguish.

Federal officials are aware of at least 65 accidents related to the gel products, including two deaths from a product previously recalled, and 34 hospitalizations. Victims suffered second and third degree burns to the face, chest, hands, arms, and legs, according to the CPSC.

“The injuries are actually greater than the number of incidents because loved ones and friends are trying to come to the rescue of the victim, who is on fire, and then they themselves are set on fire,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. The material make-up of the gel makes the fires stubbornly difficult to extinguish on skin, Wolfson said.

“It is sometimes hard to judge when the fire is fully extinguished,” Wolfson said, adding that the flames are hard to see in daylight or when they burn low. “All pourable gel fuel, regardless of manufacturer, poses flash fire hazards,” the CPSC said in a statement.

There have been two deaths linked to fuel gel products made by Napa Home & Garden of Duluth, Georgia, which recalled its products in June 2011. The new recall targets two million units of pourable gel packets sold since 2008. They come in one-quart sized plastic bottles and one-gallon plastic jugs. They are marketed in both scented and unscented formulas.

The packets retail for between $5 and $20 dollars per bottle. “There have been several dozen accidents involving gel fuels made by these nine companies,” Wolfson said.

The nine manufacturers agreeing to the voluntary recall are: Bird Brain Inc., of Ypsilanti, Michigan; Bond Manufacturing of Antioch, California; Sunjel Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Fuel Barons Inc. of Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Lamplight Farms Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin; Luminosities Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pacific Decor Ltd. of Woodinwille, Washington; Real Flame of Racine, Wisconsin; and Smart Solar Inc. of Oldsmar, Florida.

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