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Terrible Firepot Explosions Injure Victims, Lead to Federal Investigation

After a hard winter, summer evenings in the backyard hold the promise of an idyllic scene. Soft breezes have replaced the icy winds, and the sound of birds serves as a lovely reminder that nature is alive. Adding a decorative firepot should only enhance the scene, offering gentle light as darkness falls.

But when manufacturers of those firepots fail to make them safely, terrible accidents can occur. Two recent explosions involving firepots and fuel gel in New York caused three people to suffer severe burns. The burns required hospitalization.

When the New York Times wrote about these accidents, numerous people from around the country reported that similar fires had occurred in the last few years, since firepot products went on the market. These cases are a vivid reminder of why products liability law exists: to hold those who make and distribute unreasonably dangerous products like this accountable.

In one of the New York cases, on May 28, a 14-year-old boy was burned by hot, jelly-like fuel after a firepot malfunctioned prior to a wedding reception planned for the backyard. When the boy's cousin attempted to light a firepot, the quart-size bottle of fuel the cousin was pouring from burst into burning flames.

A few days later, on June 3, a 24-year-old man in Manhattan was subjected to second-and-third degree burns from the fuel for a firepot exploded.

The problem isn't only the explosion - though that alone is devastating, an occurrence that witnesses liken to a napalm bomb going off. To make matters worse, the jelly-like fuel sticks to skin and clothing and keeps burning, even when victims roll over on the ground.

Napa Home & Garden Inc., the manufacturer of the firepots involved in the New York incidents, has asked retailers to stop selling them, not only in New York but nationwide. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has also begun an investigation.

Source: "After Accidents, Firepot Manufacturer Stops Sales," New York Times, 6-13-11

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