The U.S. government has issued a recall for a certain type of fuel gel in the wake of the tragic accident involving 14-year-old Michael Hubbard, who suffered serious injuries in a citronella gel candle explosion Memorial Day weekend.
The announcement came about five days after U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham), sent letters to the Consumer Products Safety Commission asking for the recall.
The lawmakers also urged the commission to investigate manufacturer’s labels that stated the product was safe.
Michael was hospitalized at Stony Brook University Medical Center after pouring fuel into an already lit wickless gel candle. Two young men were injured in a similar accident in Manhattan while using the same product, which is marketed as FireGel. When lit, the jelly-like liquid fuel burns blue or clear, with almost no smoke, making it difficult to determine whether or not there is a flame.
The recall was announced in cooperation with the manufacturer, Georgia-based Napa Home & Garden. According to the CPSC, 460,000 containers of fuel are subject to recall and consumers should immediately stop using the FireGel brand fuel and return all bottles or jugs to the retailer for a full refund.
FireGel manufacturer Napa Home & Garden asked one of its retailer, Bed Bath & Beyond, to pull the product from shelves following a New York Times story that ran earlier this month.
Michael, a freshman at Riverhead High School, underwent a skin graft this week and is still in a medically induced coma, according to his recovery blog at Caringbridge.org/visit/michaelhubbard16.
“I am glad the product that almost killed Michael Hubbard will be officially off the shelves,” Congressman Bishop said in a statement. “The fact that the CPSC moved so quickly to recall this product should be a wake-up call for consumers about the dangers posed by fire gels and firepot.”
County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) also announced last week he was sponsoring a bill to ban the sale of fuel gels in Suffolk County.
“There is no question that these products are dangerous and are a threat to the health and safety of county residents,” Mr. Romaine said. “They should not be on the market. We cannot allow another family to suffer the same devastation as Michael’s.”
“Napa is aware of 37 reports of incidents, including 23 burn injuries to consumers,” the CPSC states on its website. The product was sold through Bed Bath & Beyond, Shopko, Restoration Hardware, specialty and gift shops, furniture stores, and home and garden stores nationwide, as well as through Amazon.com and home and garden catalogs between December 2009 and June 2011.
Scott Wolfson, the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s public affairs director, said last week that investigating the product was a top priority.
“We have seen the congressman’s letter and we want to be responsive to it,” he said. “We feel like our first obligation is to make sure all consumers know of these dangers, going into this weekend and beyond. A traditional fire extinguisher or water may not put out [a fire caused by the gel.]”