They seem like a good idea. Beautiful glaze treatments, lovely shapes, lovely light. However, fire bowls are causing serious accidents and, at the very least, extreme caution must be used around them. At the most, they shouldn’t be used at all. I would never use one, given the mounting evidence. This might be a controversial stand, given how popular they are right now but, to me, the safety issue outweighs the fad.
Gel fuel is used in fire bowls and therein lies part of the issue. Basically, burns from gel fuel accidents are the same as napalm burns.
Usually fuel usage and safety greatly depends upon the person involved. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who poured more charcoal lighter fluid onto a fire that had already been lit. Sometimes the fuel in the can lit on fire. Well, the same scenario can happen with gel fuel used in fire bowls. Even if a person takes care, though, accidents happen because sometimes the ceramic fire bowl explodes, showering those nearby with flaming fuel. In addition, the gel itself can explode. Click here and here and if you want to read more about recent cases (caution, it’s graphic and disturbing).
We are used to using candles and we’ve learned to use them with care. Oil lamps and kerosene lanterns cannot be lit until you reassemble the lamp and light the wick. But, whether you’re using gel fuel with a Bunsen burner, fondue pot, or decorative fire bowl, you simply pour the fuel into the holder and light it.
The thing is, ceramic fire bowls seem to be sold everywhere right now. I’ve seen inexpensive, mass-produced versions at hardware and houseware stores. I’ve seen gorgeous, hand-thrown fire bowls in shops and gallery gift stores. I would like to think that the people who are selling these or making them don’t realize how dangerous they can be. Here is an entry on Snopes related to the issue. Here is a youtube video about the issue from a personal injury lawyer. Believe me, The Consumer Products Safety Commission would not have recalled 2 million jugs or cans of gel fuel had there been no reason.
As artisans, we naturally want what we create and sell to be safe for consumers. It’s time to rethink fire bowls. Aside from the possibility of harm, there is a legal liability issue.
Buying Christmas gifts? Reconsider that fire bowl….