Long Island Backyard Firepot Explosion Part Of Alarming Trend

14-Year-Old Severely Burned, Kidneys & Lungs Near Failure

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The said it was like napalm exploding in a flash.

Several fires are raising questions about the safety of firepots, meant to light up backyards and keep mosquitoes away. CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan spoke with one Long Island victim’s heartbroken family on Monday.

Nancy Reyer has slept the last 16 days at her critically burned son’s hospital bedside as Michael Hubbard, struggles to stay alive in Stony Brook University’s pediatric intensive care unit. The 14-year-old’s lungs and kidneys are near failure.

“If you want to go with the angels go with the angels and be with God, or if you want to stay, please stay and be here with mommy and we will fight ‘til the end,” Nancy Reyer said crying.

A photo of Michael was taken shortly before the fireball covered his body. He was preparing for a wedding reception in a cousin’s back yard when fuel gel poured into a wickless ceramic firepot suddenly exploded. Witnesses said the entire quart jar turned into a lethal weapon. Firepots and liquid gel are relatively new products and are widely sold at home and garden stores, labeled as “safe.”

“It’s a bomb. A bomb in a bottle,” Reyer said.

“The gel, it appears basically stuck to his skin and even after the flames were out the gel continued to cause ongoing damage, until he was decontaminated at the scene from the gel,” Dr. Kimberly Fenton said.

Napa Home and Garden of Georgia, the company that manufactured the firepot Michael’s family bought, was shocked to learn that there have been 10 recent complaints of serious burns. The company is now ordering its retailers to temporarily pull the product while urging consumers to read warning labels.

“Although we feel our product is safe when used correctly, because of these recent events, we feel it is necessary that we reaffirm the safety of our products,” the company said in a statement.

“I just want my child back. That’s all,” Reyer said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating. There could soon be a nationwide ban or recall on all fire-gel products.

Fuel gel firepots carry warnings not to refill them if they are still lighted, or even hot, but those labels are small stickers on part of the pot’s packaging, meant to be thrown away.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Jennifer McLogan
  • Tom

    I’m really sorry for this youngster and his family. But, I ask, where is the personal responsibility. The fuel containers are clearly marked not to add fuel to a hot or burning pot. You wouldn’t pour gasoline onto a burning fire. Somethings are meant for only adults to use. Reading the postings, it looks like most people don’t understand basic safety when dealing with chemicals. It’s like filling your car up with gasoline while smoking. Believe it or not, I still see people do this. Stop blaming the companies when simply following instructions would suffice.

  • Candace

    I just got home from the hospital visiting my dear friend. He is currently suffering second and third degree burns on his leg from this. He is in excruciating pain. These things need to be banned immediately.

  • HB in KC

    The fuel is ALCOHOL. Pouring an accellerant into a burning vessel is just plain stupid. (This applies to you, too, idiots who squirt lighter fluid on burning charcoal!).

    Fire pots, made by quite a few companies, are meant to add atmosphere to your patio, poolside, or even indoors with the NON-citronella fuel. They should be treated as any “dangerous” possession….the backyard pool, the power drill, the hairdryer near a bathtub. Common sense, people.

  • Trish A

    This happened to me July 2010. I was sitting across the deck when a flame shot across and caught my shirt on fire. I suffered 2nd degree total thickness and 3rd degree burns to both arms and my right leg. There is no greater pain than that of a burn and the scars are left forever. My greatest hope is that this product is finally removed from the market but it is with deep sadness that it may be at the expense of a precious little boy. My thoughts and prayers are with Michael Hubbard and his family.

  • Erin

    This happened to my husband as well last June. He was a good six feet away from the fire pot when someone went to add more fuel gel to it. Suddenly, the fuel gel shot across the deck onto my husband’s pants leg and they went up in flames. Rolling on the ground only set the ground on fire, patting it out with his hand only caused his hand to burn. Somehow he was able to get his pants off and that smothered the fire, but he sustained 3rd degree burns on his leg and hand, requiring a skin graft. He also got a staph infection from the burn so the surgery couldn’t take place right away. A year later, he still has loss of sensation on his leg and will forever be scarred, but I thank God every day that it wasn’t worse! My heart goes out to Michael’s family and I pray he will pull through this. This product is so unstable and has no business being on the shelves.

  • Cynthia

    This is such a shame I couldn’t sleep thinking about Michael and his family. My nephew was burned six years ago on Christmas night after a gasoline explosion. I know the horror this family is facing and I want to reach out to them for support. My nephew was burned over 65% of his body, 3rd and 4th degree. It was a tremendous struggle for him and all of us. The ONLY thing that carried us through was our faith in God and the prayers of all that knew us and that did not. We learned of the Phoenix Burn Society years after the accident and they have also been a tremendous support system to us. Dear Mrs. Reyer, you can reach the society for burn survivors at: http://www.phoenix-society.org. You will need people that understand what you are going through and this is the organization that can help with so much. My nephew survived the tragedy and is living and thriving today but ONLY by the Grace of God. I will pray for Michael and check back on this blog. If you want to contact me, reply to this blog and I will be in touch. My thoughts and prayers are with Michael, you and your family. Regards, Cynthia

  • Greta

    There is no need for a product like this. Just light a regular citronella candle and it will keep bugs away just fine. I also don’t trust those oil things you plug in outlets, that sounds like a fire waiting to happen IMO. Turkey fryers, oil plugs and these pots should all be banned. I sure hope this kid makes it. Very sad.

  • richard Allen

    I guess firepots are Cool looking…..we cant have 2 or 3 of those UGLY electric bug zappers in our precious yard….. what would the neighbors think?.

    • Hell on Earth

      Probably because the firepots are made in America, whereas the electric bug zappers are not….pwned. He will most likely be scarred for life, let’s pray for him. Maybe he should eat a lot of ox tails and chicken drumsticks/wings for the collagen, and vitamin C. Some gotu kola might help also.

  • Rob

    i really want to know why these companies have to make these products meaning the firepots use Isopropyl alcohol as there fuel source meaning that flame will burn clear as the fuel burns for awhile and once you add fuel to it like Isopropyl alcohol which is gel bassed fuel it will explode in the bottle now why would a company use that as the fuel source for these things iv bin a firefighter for 2 years and it makes me sick to my stomach every time a kid or adult gets burned because of how stupid people can be to… Michael Hubbard you hang in there buddy your going to make it and to his family i cant express how sorry i am for that shouldn’t of happened that was a critical error on the companies part and now unfortunately your paying the price and i am rely sorry for you… i can assure you me and all the guys in my company will be praying for Michael to pull through

  • karen s

    may the angels watch over you michael, and give you peace. having worked on the burn unit of a massachusetts hospital, i can say without hesitation that there is nothing more difficult than being a burn victim. the complications are so much more difficult than any other injury. my heart goes out to his mom, family & friends.

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