Family files lawsuit after child burned by fire pot

June 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The southwest suburban family says they learned firsthand just how dangerous fuel gels used in outdoor fire pots can be.

It's been a long and painful road for Ilana Mendoza, and she's still a long way from a complete recovery from the severe burns that scarred her face and parts of her body.

"There's nights you sit up and cry and think, 'is she gonna be OK?'" said Dana Mendoza, mother.

It was September, 2010 when Mendoza says Ilana and several kids were playing in her backyard with a ceramic fire pot on the patio table. They were using it to try to keep mosquitoes away. But when Ilana crawled under the table after a toy, she bumped the fire pot, knocking it over. That's when the burning liquid gel used in the pot poured all over her, starting her on fire.

"The substance splashes on the skin like a jelly, sticks and continues to burn," said Dave Kupits, attorney.

Dana Mendoza says she jumped on top of her daughter to try to smother the flames and in the process caused second degree burns on her leg. She has filed suit against the manufacturer as well as Jewel food stores where she bought the fuel and Wal-Mart where her neighbor bought the fire pot.

A spokesperson for Wal-Mart issued a statement saying, "we are sympathetic to the child and her family. Our hope and concern is for her and that she gets better. The safety of our members is the top priority and will continue to be our focus."

Mendoza says she wants the company to stop selling the fire pots so no one else has to experience what Ilana has gone through.

"She's coming along but think what would have happened if someone wasn't right there. It's deadly," she said.

There have been numerous similar injuries around the country allegedly caused by fire pots. It prompted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to suggest consumers avoid buying them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also issued a warning. Some stores have removed them from the shelves.

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