A common household product set my daughter on fire. I want to stop it from happening to you.
In California recently, a 9-year-old boy was severely burned at summer camp when a science demonstration went wrong. In May, 17 people in Nashville were injured in a chemistry class.
They join the ranks of Americans, many of them children or young adults, who have been burned by a phenomenon called flame jetting.
My daughter became one of those innocent bystanders, on a beautiful Sonoma Valley night in May 2014. One moment I was listening to my twin 16-year old girls giggling as they roasted marshmallows, then blood-curdling screams pierced our neighborhood. I was a first responder- grabbing her with my hands. Wrapping my body around her, to suffocate the flames. That event changed my family forever.
Fire professionals documented flame jetting in 2010 when a Michigan man was charged with murder in the death of his 6-year-old daughter. Fire engineers for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms conducted experiments that proved the man had, as he claimed, been trying to reignite a backyard tiki-torch when the container in his hand turned into a flamethrower, shooting a stream of fire and covering his daughter with flaming liquid fuel. She died from her burns. Initially skeptical of the Father’s story, investigators learned his unlikely explanation could be true.
Flame jetting occurs when the vapors of flammable liquids, like gas, lighter fluid, or ethanol biofuels ignite and spray burning fuel. This is also referred to as the flame-thrower effect because flames can shoot as far as 15 to 20 feet. The container itself is often virtually untouched in these incidents, but the thousands burned by the phenomenon spend months in burn centers and undergo years of treatment. Hundreds die from their injuries each year.
My family had a ventless fireplace, and I had only purchased recommended biofuel, because the label said it was safer. That May night, while refueling, one of my daughters was carefully pouring the container to restart the firepit – just as we all had done many times before, without incident. Instantly, invisible vapors ignited, shooting flames that engulfed her sister. After months in a burn center and countless surgeries, she is thriving again. So is her sister, finally. But that night caused devastating suffering for both of my girls. The road to recovery for each of them – and for our whole family-- was unbelievably painful.
These “freak accidents” are not accidents at all. They happen because common consumer products are not required to have a simple flame arrester- this safety device is an anti-flash screen on the opening of the container. Examples: gasoline cans, alcohols such as ethanol, methanol, ventless fireplace fuel and biofuels.
And all of this pain, all of these lives lost or interrupted could be prevented if these containers were manufactured with safety in mind. Flame arrestors – a simple plastic or metal screen on the mouth of containers with flammable liquids --have been proven effective at preventing flame jetting in every test that has been conducted by the ATF and independent research labs.
Flame arrestors allow the flammable liquid to escape the container, but stop sparks or flames from escaping. They cost about five cents (5¢) per container during the manufacturing process. I was shocked and outraged to learn they are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on flammable liquid containers used in industrial settings, and required by the Department of Defense to protect combat and non-combat personnel. But there is no such requirement for consumers or students in our schools.
Why isn’t the average American citizen entitled to the same protection as trained commercial and military employees? How about our children?
A bill currently in Congress would require manufactures to put flame arrestors in all liquid fuel containers. This is not a partisan issue. It is not a complex problem or one that would put an undue burden on manufacturers. Some manufacturers have already started doing this – voluntarily.
Please contact your Congressional representative and urge them to vote for HR-919 The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017. This is a simple way to make our homes and classrooms safer, and prevent thousands of injuries each year. When buying a container, look for one that has a flame arrestor installed, if it is available. Contact science teachers and make them aware, so they are no longer charged criminally, like the chemistry teacher in a Denver, Colorado high school.
There are so many tragedies that could befall our families we can’t prevent. This is one where we can make a difference. Let’s make our elected representatives do the right thing.
Margrett A. Lewis is a California mother and the founder of Not Your Turn to Burn, an organization dedicated to burn survivors and advocates for flame arrestors. She travels the country, educating individuals about flame arrestors and burn injuries.
URGENT WARNING: I need your help to stop burning people alive. This happens every single day.
HELP ME - I am requesting Congressional Representatives to cosponsor Bill HR#919- The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act- BEFORE IT EXPIRES, IN DECEMBER. This Bill, in Congress, requires flame arresters to be put on consumer products. Manufacturers also support this Bill for public safety, to reduce product liability and to make the marketplace fair & competitive again- if every one is required to put them on- it's equal and neutral.
Share to Teachers, Parents & Community Leaders- Hurry Congress ends in a couple of weeks. Let's get this done already. I further request, this Mom, Margrett Lewis to get a copy to my representative:
I am a constituent of Congressman/ Congresswoman: __________________________________________________
My Name is: _______________________________________
My address in this district is:
Email To: NotYourTurnToBurn@gmail.com
Fax: (510) 962-8230 Attention: NYTTB
PM (Priv.Mess.) To- (Margrett Priest Lewis):
Your Name, Your Address, Your Representatives' Name
Please keep the details coming. For those that want to confirm your Representative’s Name- enter your zip code, then send to me. Link Here: https://www.house.gov/representa.../find-your-representative
Click here to read the H.R. 919 Bill for information and updates on Cosponsors, Committees, and more information on the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017
Bipartisan Dear Colleague Letter
Portable fuel containers can be found in households across America. But over the years, thousands of people have suffered serious burn injuries and even death when ignited vapors flash back and ignite the contents within the container. This can cause a flashback explosion or flame jetting. These horrific accidents can be devastating.
The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act provides a simple, common sense solution to this dangerous situation. This bipartisan legislation is supported by industry groups and would require manufacturers to include simple flame mitigation devices, or flame arrestors, in these containers. These devices are simple – mesh screens or thin barriers that allow liquid to pass through but prevent flames from traveling into the container and igniting the contents.
Consumers need this protection. Not only is it inexpensive, but it is completely effective. We are not aware of any case involving a flashback explosion from a portable fuel container equipped with a functioning flame arrestor causing injuries.
This bill adopts a balanced approach and gives the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) up to 18 months to adopt a voluntary standard. However, if ASTM does not act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must issue a final rule regarding flame arrestors in portable fuel containers within 30 months of enactment. It also directs the CPSC to conduct an education campaign to alert consumers to the dangers of using or storing of portable fuel containers near ignition sources.
I encourage you to support this important public safety legislation. If you would like to be a cosponsor, or if you would like additional information, please contact Erin Helling (Thompson) at 5-3311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Thompson & David Joyce
Members of Congress, Bipartisan Co-Sponsors
Supported by Industry and Manufacturers
Tonia Clark, Baltimore, MD
Dear Congressman Ruppersburger,
Let's work together!!! I am a burn mom that is in need of your support and help. My daughter was burned in Dec 2011 from a horrific accident that we now know is called flame jetting and could have been prevented with a less than 5 cent device. There are over 300 documented cases of people and families that are affected by this and I working diligently to make sure that this does not happen to another family. I am working with a team of burn survivors and Moms and thanks to Congressman Thompson's office from California he will be again this year be presenting again a bill called the Portable Fuel Containers Safety Act (PFCSA) previously H.R. 5900 or Burn Survivors Act. Interest in this is snowballing and not only from everyday citizens but from government entities such as ATF that has done research on these fire arrestors and CPSC that has created committees and subcommittees looking at this issue. Brian Kuebler Investigative Reporter from WMAR TV originally did the story of my families tragic accident and has taken an interest in updating the story. There are a lot of moving parts in this and we are looking for your support to get this bill passed. This is a safety issue that needs to be addressed. You can follow the links below that shows our story and the research the ATF has done regarding Flame Jetting and Fire Arrestor testing. Let's Talk!!!
ATF Article: https://www.atf.gov/arson/atf-fire-research-laboratory-gasoline-flame-jetting-videos
ABC News: http://www.abc2news.com/news/region/baltimore-county/atf-studies-fire-phenomenon-that-a-burned-baltimore-county-teenager
Feike Van Dijk, Lander, WY
Dear Congressman Cheney,
This letter is meant to request your endorsement in regards the Bill of Congress H.R.5900 - Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2016. This Bill will be presented by Rep. Thompson, Mike (D-CA-5) who introduced this specific Bill 07/14/2016. Recently, Congressman Thompson held a legislative staff briefing in Wash. DC (on September 28th ) to bipartisan representatives on this issue for Public Safety and to build bipartisan support. Many National Organizations in the fire service and specialists have endorsed this specific Bill in the hopes it will save lives and it will change the rapidly increasing burn patients in hospitals. Since your responsibility is to pass laws regards the safety of the American Citizens, I am asking for your endorsement hoping this Bill will pass.
Every day vapor explosions cause flashback burn injuries in homes, labs and schools. This happens quite often from the simple act of pouring which allows a gas/vapor mixture to be ignited when near any ignition source- a flame, a spark, an intense heat source or even static electricity can initiate an explosion. Pouring a fuel is a hazard and it should always have a Flame Arrester on the spout or opening to mitigate this hazard.
A Flame Arrester- is a small insert in the opening- it looks like a screen or a filter. This simple safety guard has been in use since they were first documented in 1800’s. Further a flame arrester is in use today in every step from the oil well to shipping and transport and even the gas pump but it is no longer on every fuel container, spout or opening. These use to be considered a standard safety measure. Why? Cost-cutting measures by manufacturers have removed this safety guard to save 5¢-1¢ of unit cost which translates directly to manufacturer’s profit. But at what cost to human beings? Medical Insurers? Liability Insurers? State and Federal Budgets? Without this Flame Arrester every single unit sold is a defective product. We must insist that this game of Russian Roulette end- Our Families’, Our Children’s and Our Student’s safety must trump profit. Without it, human beings are burned alive, maimed and killed. Innocently pouring a bottle is currently risking life and limb from an unprotected container.
State and Federal Budgets are already over stressed. Knowing that they pick up over a million dollars of healthcare insurance costs for each severe incident which is avoidable. The more severe the injury, the more expensive the cost.
Being a burn survivor and fire fighter myself I’ve seen the enormous damages vapor explosions cause. On July 15th 2014 I experienced my own tragedy, I lost my house and two dear sons due to a fire which is still not fully determined how it occurred. My youngest son (9months at the time) ended up with severe burns and spend three months in Salt Lake City’s University of Utah’s burn unit, my wife had 2nd and 3rd degree burn and also I was Life-Flighted to SLC with severe burns. In the Burn Unit I was surrounded by individuals of all ages that were scarred for life due to vapor explosions which could have been avoided if the specific containers contained a flame arrestor. My life has been completely changed since my own tragedy, where now I can advocate for fire safety not only in my community but also nationally. 9 months after my own tragedy I became a firefighter to be able to help where I wasn’t able the day of my tragedy hoping other parents don’t have to go through the same suffering as I do. This specific Bill I’m asking for your endorsement has been a brainchild of a fellow burn survivor parent (Margrett Priest Lewis), since her teenage daughter got severely burned due a vapor explosion while she was making s’mores, Margrett has been working hard making the flame arrestor a mandatory Federal required part of flammable liquid containers.
Rep. Thompson, Mike (D-CA-5) will speak in the near future in the Wash. DC. Congress (date will be determined after the National elections) in front of the Public Safety Initiative, accompanied by Leigh Ann Price, MD: Burn Surgeon, Glen Stevick, PhD: ASTM Flame Arrester Subcommittee member, Adam St John, PE: Fire Research Engineer- ATF, Jennifer Radics-Johnson- Chairwoman: ABA’s Burn Prevention Committee, Margrett
Sarah Strode: Graham, WA
July 2nd, 2011 is a day that will never be erased from my memory. After a day of yard work and errands, my husband and I told our four small children that we would end the summer evening with s'mores. After 20 minutes of trying to start a fire in our small fire pit, my husband, David, went to the garage and came back holding a 7 inch can of remote control car fuel. The can had a thin straw that you would insert into an opening in the RC car to fill with fuel.
The bottle seemed harmless and truthfully I was more concerned about our three little ones lined up on a bench next to me. They were getting antsy and tired and I had already loaded there marshmallow sticks with the fluffy little treats. What held my attention was my two year old waving her stick around and I was so worried she might poke someone's face! Our youngest son was in his crib sleeping.
As stated before the can seemed harmless. I truly doubted it would even help us start a fire it was so small. David drizzled some of the fuel and tried to light the wood, nothing. He then drizzled more and what happened next still shocks me to my core...five years later.
A huge plume of fire exploded right at my children and I. Dave was standing on the other side of the fire pit and witnessed the whole thing. I had to shut my eyes and by the time I opened them I saw David walking through the fire to grab our four year old Addison. Her hair, face, neck, shirt, arms, hands and thighs all on fire. I then picked up our two year old Brooklyn, as her hair was on fire.
I patted her out and ran into the house, while my 7 year old screamed and cried at the horror he was witnessing. I gave Brooklyn to David who was dousing Addison in our kitchen sink with water. Her hands and wrists and shirt still burning with bright flames. She was now covered in water and the water still would not put out the flames.
I told Dave to call 911, grabbed Addison out of the sink, wrapped her in a towel and smothered the flames. At this point she was lying on the kitchen floor crying, David, Thomas and Brooklyn were all sitting in the family room crying. I told them not to come in the kitchen as my precious little girls skin was now falling off her hands and face. She asked what it was that she could see falling off her hands and wrists and I didn't answer, the only thing I could think to do was sing Jesus Loves Me.
The first responders came and immediately took Addie, intubated her and airlifted her to Harborview Hospital, Brooklyn followed in an ambulance with Dave. I had to stay at home until someone could come, stay with the other children and drive me to the hospital.
Addison was intubated for over 20 days. We did not know if she would survive. Once her lungs were strong enough the surgeries to remove her 3rd degree (or full thickness) burns and then graft skin began. To date Addison has had 13 surgeries due to this horrific accident.
We cannot tell you how many people have come to us saying “We use lighter fluid daily.” “We have poured gasoline on an open flame.” “It was just an accident.”
And it was... it was... just an accident. However, no one told us that a tiny bottle of fuel that was not used on an open flame would turn into a bomb, setting two of our daughters on fire and nearly killing one. All while we were sitting four feet away from the source. The flash of fire was huge, blinding and hot and we were at least four feet away from our fire pit.
There are so many more details I could share but I want you to understand just the basic truth of our story. We are your everyday family. We were not drinking, we were not trying to build a bonfire, we were not being negligent, we were trying to make our children dessert.
Our story is one of many.
We support Margrett Priest Lewis and her fight to raise awareness of the common fuel people use day in and day out, and how we can make these life altering or fatal injuries stop by adding a “safety guard” or “arrester”. It will save lives.
Thank you for your time.
Calais Weber Biery: Hudson, Ohio
Dear Congressman Joyce,
My name is Calais Weber Biery, and between 2003 and 2007 I attended high school at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. I am writing to voice my support for H.R. 5900: Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2016. During a laboratory demonstration on January 23, 2006, my chemistry teacher poured a jug containing methanol onto an open flame and, within moments, the exposed flames ignited the fumes and an orange ball of fire exploded from the jug and hit me head-on. My face, hands, abdomen, and legs took the worst of it, and I spent the next seventy days in the burn unit recovering from third- and fourth-degree burns over 48% of my body.
After I was released from the hospital, I struggled with both depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for quite some time. A simple trip to the gas station or the unexpected smell of something would trigger a complete panic attack. It was only with time and a lot of practice that I have been able to move on and resume a relatively normal life. Even to this day, however, the occasional burning smell or the sound of ambulance sirens causes a lasting burst of anxiety.
My aim in sharing some of the gory details of my injury and recovery is to shed light on the devastating consequences that so many people, particularly children and teenagers, have faced and will continue to face unnecessarily unless we stop this nonsense.
I have always known that my incident was entirely preventable for quite a few reasons, but recently a friend of mine - Margrett Priest Lewis - has brought to my attention an even more definitive method that would have saved me and so many others from unnecessary tragedy: flame arrestors. They are an incredibly inexpensive, virtually foolproof method to preventing incidents such as mine from happening, and it deeply saddens me to think of the lives that could have been saved and the trauma that could have been prevented had these arrestors been added long ago.
I stand firmly next to Margrett Priest Lewis and her family in support of H.R. 5900, and I ask for your consideration in joining us.
Calais Weber Biery
Valarie Weber: Calais’ Mom
I am the mother of Calais Weber, my name is Valarie Weber. The day is coming up this month, 1/23/06, but we do not need reminders because it's with me almost every day. I do not tell Calais, because as her Mom, she has worked very hard to move her life forward and be healthy and happy. Calais was in the hospital after the explosion at the school for 70 days and actually was sent home probably prematurely due to insurance. When the school called us, they acted like it was not too bad and Calais was burned a little. My mother's instinct knew better, we flew to the hospital and actually beat the ambulance from WRA.
When I saw Calais being brought in from the ambulance, I just cried, her face all burnt and sooty looking, her beautiful hair singed close to her scalp. Her body covered completely and really the hospital rushed her back to triage and would not let us talk except to tell her everything would be ok. Actually, Calais assured me she was fine when she saw my face.
Calais went through more torture then a body should have to endure. We are told by the nurses at the burn unit, Calais, because she had so little unburned skin, they had to take skin from her back and regrow it to take more which is the most painful area to take skin from because your spine is where all your nerve endings are. They took her scalp for her face. They put most badly burned people in a coma, but Calais contracted pneumonia right away and could not stay in a coma to miss a lot of the worse pain. The Red Cross brought my son who is in the military, home from Iraq to say his goodbyes to his baby sister, we almost lost her several times, pneumonia, infections, not enough skin to cover her body. Calais burns were 3 Rd and 4th degree, which I had never heard of fourth degree, it is when it burns through skin, muscle, fat, etc. to the bone. Calais was grafted with pig skin, cadaver skin, and a man made skin named Integra. My husband and I lived at the hospital with Calais, day and night, occasionally going home for showers in the second month, we took turns staying overnight with Calais. I could go on and on, it was a living nightmare. Calais was tired of people hurting her, so I would put her on and off bedpans and did everything I could which took a toll on my body. I ended up ripping muscles in my arm and back and have atrophy to this day. I live with chronic pain every day, a useless arm and with age, arthritis has set in.
It broke our family up in many way with her other four siblings.
It took many years of surgeries all over the country, it was my life. Calais did not want to live the first year which I was with her 24/7. We lived in a dark time for years.
The teacher was given her Miranda rights but everything was covered up. I'm sure you know the school, WRA, did settle out of court and admitted guilt but all that did was to help us pay off her medical bills and many years of surgery and education.
I am writing my story as a mom who still suffers from the negligence of the teacher with lack of all proper safety precautions. This particular teacher did not follow any rules, school policies or common sense. Then I find out from another mom, Margrett Lewis, through Calais, that is fighting to stop our children and actually all people from being needlessly burned, sometimes to death. Anyway, I now know all the bottle needed to avoid the explosion was a flame arrester, if I understood correctly it could stop most if not all methanol accidents or flammable fuel fires.
Calais told me if we write to our Congressman that maybe we can get some support and have a voice for all of the burn victim families. Just maybe, Congressman Joyce can know that he might be saving the lives of children and future suffering where even after the horrific pain gets better, the stares never do for most especially children, it's a forever torture of another kind that only they know or their parents and loved ones know.
I was told to pass this letter to you, in turn you would see that Congressman Joyce receives it. I could get other family members and friends to write who saw the suffering our family endured for years, if it would help.
I appreciate as Calais’ mom that you could pass this on. I would also be willing to speak to Congress if it ever got that far. Margrett Priest Lewis is doing the entire country service by staying on this. We wanted to do more and Calais does speak about it, also, has done safety videos for the government. Calais’ story can also be seen on PBS on a documentary that premiered in New York City and Los Angeles to help burn victims mend and heal physically and mentally.
I'm very proud of Calais, she is a remarkable woman, early acceptance into Wellesley, additional education at Harvard and John Hopkins.
We want to do our part of helping stop children being burned and perhaps dying.
John Sheetz: Kill Devil Hills, NC
(Brother of Lorrie Sheetz, Roanoke Rapids, NC)
Lorrie Sheetz was a single mother and Paramedic. She is survived by her 5 daughters, a brother, and both parents.
Judith Constance Buys, DDS
Judith was known as a compassionate dentist and is survived by her husband, Dr. Jim McGorman (an ER physician) and two sons.
Jill Kruse- Mother of Kris Kruse- Clermont, FL.
Dear Congressman Ross:
On February 8, 2016 our son, Kris, a Clermont Police Officer, was severely burned over 70% of his body by a gasoline can explosion in Lake County. He fought for his life for weeks, and after a year and three million dollars, has mostly recovered and returned to work.
You can imagine our horror when we heard from Margrett Priest-Lewis, mother of a burn survivor, there is a single 5 cent part missing from current day gasoline cans that prevent this type of accident. Years ago this part was automatically placed inside the cans. We always thought it was a filter of some sort to keep debris from getting into the lawn mower and other equipment. Little did we know this small filter was a fire arrester that would have saved our son from this life changing event. Companies are saving pennies by eliminating these fire arresters from gasoline cans. This single piece would have saved our son, friend’s daughter and many others from severe burns and saved some from death.
Please join us in our quest by passing the Portable Fuel Containers Safety Act (PFCSA) orBurn Survivors Act. Millions of dollars can be saved by avoiding serious burn injuries but most important, lives can be saved.