Citronella pourable gel fuel has been widely touted as the best solution to keeping insects away when burning ceramic firepots, firelites or personal fireplaces outdoors.
The manufacturers of the gel describe it as an alcohol-based, environmentally friendly fuel gel that produces no smoke or ash when it burns. Marketed by Bed Bath & Beyond as FireGel, advertisers called it “the safe pourable gel.” As it turns out, FireGel is anything but safe and endangered the lives of multiple individuals.
Teenager Severely Burned
Michael Hubbard, a 14-year-old, came with his family to Riverhead, NY to attend his aunt’s Long Island wedding. The day before the wedding, on May 28, Michael was helping his relatives prepare for the big day when his mother asked him and his cousins to light a firepot. The Citronella gel seemed not to catch on fire after the first try so Michael’s cousin added more fuel. At that instant, it exploded in teenager’s hand.
The bride-to-be described the terrible episode as a “fireball” exploding, and Michael’s neighbor, a Riverhead pastor who was instrumental in helping put the flames out during the accident, said the gel was like “napalm.” Michael suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body and placed into Intensive Care Unit in a hospital. Michael has been fighting for his life ever since, as the boy’s heart had stopped during the first night after the accident. It remains to be seen whether Michael will completely recover.
Life Threatening Burns
Several days later, on June 3, another horrific accident occurred in New York. In Manhattan, on the evening of his 24th birthday, Jon Mitzman lit two firepots on his apartment’s terrace. A short while after, one of the firepots seemed to go out, so Jon, in a jarringly analogous fashion to Michael, poured FireGel to light the pot again. The ghastly explosion ensued. This time, the flames injured a bystander, Jon’s 24-year old friend Nick Stone, who received second- and third-degree burns on over 40 percent of his body. Jon also suffered burns, obtained when he tried to put out the flames on Nick’s body.
Both accidents make it abundantly clear that one cannot see the flame because there is no wick. It appears to users that the firepot is not burning. Because of this, individuals try to pour more FireGel into ceramic firepots, causing dangerous and deadly explosions.
The New York Times published an article describing both of these recent accidents. The reporter contacted Napa Home & Garden Inc., the manufacturer of firepots who is also responsible for packaging the gel. The manufacturer agreed to remove the word ‘safe’ from the description of the product. Napa has also contacted Bed Bath & Beyond and insisted that FireGel come off the shelves until new warning labels are attached. Bed Bath & Beyond confirmed that their company has stopped selling FireGel. Finally, Consumer Product Safety Commission is opening an investigation as we speak which should ultimately lead to saving lives. The Commission said that since April 2010, it has received eight reports of serious burns or explosions involving the firepots or fuel gel.
If you or someone you care about suffered an injury from citronella gel, or any other dangerous product, contact our attorneys right away. We will offer a free consultation to learn about your case and help you decide if you should file a lawsuit.