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Ontario Fire Marshal issues warning about using ethanol-fueled fire pots
The Ontario Fire Marshal has issued a warning about small table top fireplaces that use ethanol as fuel, saying there have been multiple fatalities and injuries in Ontario over the past three years.
The fire marshal released a video that shows “flame jetting,” which occurs when fuel vapors are ignited when refueling an appliance that is not fully extinguished and a flame is not visible to the eye.
“When you are using ethanol based fuel appliances there is a phenomenon known as flame jetting,” Douglas Browne, Ontario’s Deputy Fire Marshal, told CTV News Toronto. “It essentially means the ethanol fuel creates an over pressurization in the canister and when a flame contacts it, it will shoot out flames similar to a blowtorch or flame thrower.”
Browne says the fire marshal’s office wanted to warn people about the significant risk of ethanol-fueled appliances as the nights get cooler and more people may be having fires with these devices on their patios or in their backyards.
Two weeks ago in Scarborough, two women suffered severe burns because of "flame jetting" while using an ethanol appliance. It was first reported the women suffered severe burns when their patio furniture caught fire, but today the Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed that ethanol was involved in the incident.
In 2016, CTV News Toronto spoke with Fosten and Roxanne Tommasulo of Whitby, who were refueling a small table top ethanol fireplace when something went horribly wrong.
“I poured the ethanol in and lit it and next thing I knew he was engulfed in flames,” Roxanne said. “I froze. I didn't know why he was on fire."
Fosten said he saw the flames that appeared to dance in the air.
“She is still trying to light it and I see this ball of fire spinning above it and it had a tail," he said.
Fosten received third degree burns and spent two weeks in intensive care.
In the summer of 2016, Dr. Judith Buys, a Peterborough dentist, died in an ethanol accident while visiting at a friend's cottage. She was severely burned when someone lit an ethanol stove not realizing an invisible flames was still burning.
Her husband James McGorman told CTV News Toronto the public needs to know about the dangers when using ethanol fueled appliances.
"We are very sad and hurting terribly from the loss of a very important person in our family. we are working as a family diligently to try to get things to change to keep people, other people in our community safe," McGorman said.
The fire marshal's office says there are ways to try and protect yourself to prevent "flame jetting" when using ethanol appliances. Make sure flames are completely out and that the appliance is cold to the touch before refueling. Only refuel when no one is near the appliance and when refueling use a container with a flame arrestor, which helps prevent the flame from entering the container and causing a flash fire.
McGorman feels it's not worth the risk to use ethanol appliances and he says other countries are also dealing with fatalities and injuries.
Australia recently banned the sale of many types of ethanol products following more than 100 incidents, many involving serious burns. There are several lawsuits pending involving ethanol fires.