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Evaluation of Firepots and Gel Fuels



Nathan D. Marsh


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has identified a fire and burn hazard associated with a class of products often referred to as “firepots” , resulting in 2 deaths and 114 injuries as of August 31, 2012. The essential feature of this product, relative to the burn hazard, is the open- ended design of the fuel reservoir, which is simultaneously the location for adding fuel and the intended location of the flame. An exacerbating factor in these accidents results from the fuel viscosity, which in some fuels is increased artificially (to create “gel fuel”). A typical spill of ethanol from a firepot could have a heat release rate on the order of 130 kW and a height on the order of 1 m. The safety of alcohol-fueled decorative heat and light sources could be improved if they were subject performance standards similar to those for candles. In addition, we propose that alcohol-based fuels be separated into two categories: a high-viscosity fuel for non-refillable fuel cans, and a low-viscosity pourable fuel with a required integral flame arrestor.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1791
Report Number


firepot, gel-fuel, pool fire


Marsh, N. (2013), Evaluation of Firepots and Gel Fuels, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed February 24, 2024)
Created April 5, 2013, Updated November 10, 2018