Ceramic fire pots are the latest in patio decor, but some of those are proving to be fire throwers. Nancy Naeve Brown met a Rock Rapids, Iowa woman who was severely burned by one over the 4th of July weekend. She knows her recovery will be a long and painful one and she wants others to know about the dangers associated with those pots.
To understand how far Julie Timmerman has come from injuries she sustained on July 2nd is to see the before, the day after, and the now.
Julie was airlifted to the Hennepin County Burn Center after catching on fire while vacationing in Okoboji over the 4th of July holiday weekend. She was sitting on a patio with her husband and another couple who had just gotten two new decorative ceramic fire pots.
Julie says, "One of the firepots started to die out so my brother-in-law went to refill it and it pretty much exploded. A big gas ball came out on my chest and face. I remember my husband saying drop to the ground. It didn't dawn on me what was happening. My brother-in-law and husband tackled me to the ground and lay over the top of me. My brother-in-law got burned on his hands and stomach putting me out. But they did get me out. My husband said I was on fire for a good 15 seconds."
She would stay in the Burn Center in the Twin Cities for 2 weeks
Julie says, "I ended up needing 7 grafts across my body; two on my right hand, one on my left and the rest across my chest."
Julie decided to shave her head and use the skin from her scalp for grafts because it shows less scaring, heals faster with less pain. The process of rehab with OT Stephan Kulzer at the Avera McGreevy Clinic on southeastern has been anything but pain free or fast going.
Julie says, "Therapy will help me with my upper arm strength. Two of my grafts are located in my inner arms so for two weeks I had to keep my arms down by my side. I wasn't able to lift anything so I lost a lot of upper arm strength. Stephan is also helping me get back motion in my wrist and thumb that have grafts."
Sioux Falls Fire Marshal Division Chief Dean Lanier with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue says fire pots can be dangerous when they are refilled with that gel fuel while they're still hot.
Lanier says, "What people need to understand about the dynamic of fire is what burns is vapor. You can't see vapor. And depending on the direction of the wind, you never know where it's going to blow which makes it hard to estimate what will happen. The moment that vapor finds a heat source is going to combust almost instantaneously. "
Not only do you need to read the instructions of the fire pot, you need to have a fire extinguisher nearby when burning one. The extinguisher has to be specifically for liquid flammables.
Julie and her family had no idea how dangerous something as cool looking as this could be. She will never be around one again.
Julie says, "No no. I'm really trying to get the word out there if you have one get rid of it. If I would have been by myself I wouldn't be here. I was not able to put out the fire myself."
And now she is going to have to deal with what that fire did to her body and her psyche for months, maybe years, to come.
To get an idea of how hot the gel fuel in fire pots burn, Julie says when the fire ball came out of it the pot did not explode. It was in one piece and the fire ball of gel just stuck to her. She really doesn't want anyone to go through what she is going through.
In June the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning about fire pots after several people suffered serious injuries from them.