Madigan calls for federal recall of fuel gels

August 10, 2011

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a national recall of all fuel gel products.

Calling the gels "napalm-like", Madigan says the products are too dangerous for consumers and should be taken off the market completely.

Fuel gel is a pourable and flammable liquid that's used in place of a candle in fire pots or decorative vases. According to Madigan, there have been at least four cases in Illinois where residents have been severely burned because of the product. Madigan said in many cases, consumers don't realize the vase or pot is still lit, and when they pour more fuel gel onto the light source, an explosion can occur.

"Basically a fire ball erupts, getting the flaming gel on their skin, which is very, very difficult to extinguish," Madigan said. "Unfortunately, the traditional means that we have all grown up learning about how to extinguish a fire -- the stop, drop and roll -- doesn't work. Clothing is ignited, rugs are ignited, when you go to wipe it out, apparently it just spreads on other parts of your skin."

The CPSC did recall one brand of fuel gel in June of this year, when Napa Home & Garden was required to recall all pourable NAPAfire and FIREGEL gel fuel bottles. Madigan said the CPSC should work to get the rest of the fuel gel suppliers, like Bird Brain, Inc., to recall their products as well.

"It does not appear to me that we need to sacrifice another person's life or another person's bodily integrity so that you can sell another product that amounts to legalized napalm," Madigan said.

Madigan said at least four Illinois residents have been injured by the product. A three-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs was injured last year when a firepot containing fuel gel spilled on her, severely burning her face and arms. Last month, a Chicago man was also severely burned when a firepot exploded 10 feet away from him after his friend tried to pour more fire gel into the pot.

Warnings on fuel gels made by Bird Brain say consumers should not assume that because the pot or vase is out, that it is safe to refill with fuel gel. The warning encourages consumers to snuff out the flame for 15 seconds -- even if the consumer cannot see it -- to make sure the fire is completely extinguished.

Bird Brain Director Craig Wigley responded to Madigan's remarks with a statement, saying his company has "been and continues to be in active discussions with the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission since safety concerns first came to light.  We at Bird Brain take any and all concerns for consumer safety as deserving of our utmost attention."