A manufacturer of decorative firepots and pourable fuel gel that were involved in two horrific accidents in New York asked retailers on Monday to stop selling its products nationwide.
The move came two days after The New York Times reported on the two blazes, six days apart, caused by products made by Napa Home & Garden Inc. and sold at Bed Bath & Beyond. Three New Yorkers suffered severe burns in the accidents and remain hospitalized.
The Times article also prompted readers across the county to detail blazes involving the same or similar products, which have been on the market for only a couple of years.
In one of the recent cases in New York, Michael Hubbard, 14, of Riverhead, was slathered with blazing, jelly-like citronella fuel on May 28. His cousin had tried to light a firepot in preparation for a backyard wedding reception, but the quart bottle of fuel he was pouring instead burst into flames.
Then, on June 3 in Manhattan, Nick Stone, 24, suffered second- and third-degree burns over much of his body after his friend began to refill a firepot that he thought had run out of fuel and burned out.
Witnesses in both cases said the result was like a napalm bomb going off: the bottles of fuel exploded in a flash. The flaming, jellied fuel stuck to skin and clothing. It refused to stop burning even when the victims dropped to the ground and rolled over, or when bystanders tried to smother the flames with blankets or clothing.
Told of the two cases on Friday, Napa Home & Garden said it had asked Bed Bath & Beyond to stop selling the products, and the retail chain confirmed that it had alerted its stores to do so. Even so, ABC News reported on Monday morning that the products were still available in at least one of the stores over the weekend.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission also announced on Friday that it had opened an investigation.
On Monday, Napa Home & Garden said it was issuing a “precautionary hold” on sales of its burners and fuel gel until the company could “reaffirm the safety of our products.”
But reports are now surfacing nationwide of other accidents:
June 10, Granger, Ind.: Sandi Grove, 42, a contractor, was at his neighbor’s house watching their dogs romp in the yard when his neighbor tried to refill a firepot and it erupted with a fireball into his lap. “Nothing would put it out,” he said from his hospital bed on Monday.
June 3, Omaha, Neb.: Robert McCutcheon, a food-industry executive, tried to refill a Napa Home & Garden firepot that he was sure had burned out. It sent a fireball streaming out of the fuel bottle “like a flamethrower,” Mr. McCutcheon said, seriously wounding his wife, Kimberley; his 9-year-old daughter, Holly; and his sister-in-law Jamie Perez, 30.
May 28, Huntingtown, Md.: Becky Hart, 44, of Ashburn, Va., was visiting old high school friends for a cookout when someone tried to refill a Napa Home & Garden firepot that seemed to have run out of fuel. It exploded on her. Ms. Hart is still on a respirator at Washington Hospital Center’s burn unit, according to Maryland fire marshals.
March 31, Encino, Calif.: Lauren Levitt, 9, was with a friend when the friend’s father started “performing tricks” with a Napa Home & Garden firepot, according to a lawsuit accusing the hosts of gross negligence. When the man poured more fuel into the pot, it erupted onto Lauren, sending her to the hospital for 14 days with severe burns.
June 10, 2010, Carlstadt, N.J.: Skyler Kelly, 13, was seriously burned on more than a third of her body when a firepot made by a different company, BirdBrain Inc., erupted as her mother refilled it, according to the family’s lawyer. She spent more than five weeks in the hospital.
April 3, 2010, Baltimore: William Anderson, 8, was in his aunt’s backyard when a BirdBrain firepot tipped over, spilling flaming fuel gel over his left side and leg, according to a lawsuit. He spent 51 days in the hospital. His arduous rehabilitation has been chronicled in videos on YouTube by his mother.