Portable butane stoves are a great convenience, making it possible for campers and others without access to a fixed stove to cook meals. While they are available for as little as ten or fifteen dollars, unfortunately these convenient portable stoves and butane burners can cause severe burn injuries and can even explode.
Typically used in buffet restaurants, cooking demonstrations, on camping trips, and aboard boats, portable burner butane stoves can turn hazardous without warning. Most portable butane stoves are comprised of a burner, a drip pan, and a fuel compartment with an aerosol butane canister. Design flaws that can lead to fires and explosions of these devices include overheating, gas leakage, and sudden pressure release. In some stoves, the “on-off” valves on the unit control panel fail to turn completely off.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recent recalls of portable butane stoves manufactured by the Sterno Group LLC have been ordered due to fire and burn hazards. Of course, portable stoves can have defects leading to severe burn injuries before any formal recall is issued. Consumers are encouraged to stop cooking with any allegedly defective portable butane stoves immediately, and return the products to the manufacturer for replacement or repair.
Contact Lieff Cabraser
If you have been injured in a portable stove fire, or if a family member has been killed by such a fire, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Lieff Cabraser for a free, no obligation review of your burn injury case.
Portable Stove Safety Guidelines
Transporting Your Stove
The first step in propane stove safety is to get yourself and the flammable propane where you’re going. U.S. Department of Transportation and industry safety standards require propane cylinders to be transported upright, in a well-ventilated area of the vehicle. Upright storage allows the safety valve to release propane gas in the event that tank pressure becomes too high, instead of leaking propane in denser liquid form.
Propane must not be left in a closed vehicle, trunk or in hot temperatures, any of which can lead to unsafe pressure inside a propane tank, or an accumulation of flammable propane gas. Propane tanks should be removed from the vehicle promptly when you arrive.
Before using a canister, create a mixture using 1 tbsp of dishwashing detergent to 1 cup of water and lightly pour on the outside of the canister to determine if there are any leaks. The mixture will lightly bubble if there is a hole in the canister with escaping gas. The propane canister should be used carefully when attaching and detaching from the camping stove. Making sure that the nozzle is tight and that there are no leaks or holes will assist in the stove working and functioning properly. The canister should be stored in a cool dry location away from heat and additional flame. The canister should not be shaken or dropped as this could cause the canister to explode. Additionally, making sure the propane canister is the appropriate size for the stove will prevent a gas leak.
Stove Ventilation and Seal Safety
Make sure that the stove is in a properly ventilated area outdoors. Never use a propane stove in a camper, tent or a garage. Propane gives off carbon monoxide. Too much carbon monoxide will cause a person’s oxygen level to be depleted and may lead to death. Make sure that the propane cylinder that attaches to the stove is not rusted or broken anyway. Also, make sure that the knobs that connect the stove to the cylinder are not stripped and have a secure and tight fit.
One of the most important parts of the propane camping stove is the burner. The burner uses the gas flow from the canister to ignite the burner. The burner establishes a flame which is controlled by the temperature knob. If the burner has any breaks or rust in its shape, it will likely not perform up to proper temperature standards. Most burners can reach temperatures up to 400 degrees F, while some are higher depending on the size of the stove.
Carbon Monoxide Dangers of Portable Stoves
Even propane stoves that seem to be in good condition can produce CO gas. Carbon monoxide can build up quickly without being detected because it has no color, taste or odor, but it can be deadly to people who inhale it. This is why portable propane stoves must be used only outdoors and in well-ventilated locations.
When you’re using a propane stove, watch the stove and food at all times and keep children away from the cooking area. Keep flammable materials like leaves and paper goods away from a lit stove.
Ignition and Startup Safety
Place the stove on a firm, level and nonflammable surface, away from brush or overhangs. Keep the propane tank upright. If you hear or smell a propane leak, quickly turn off the stove, immediately exit the area and call the fire department for assistance.
Check the connection between the stove and propane tank for leaks several times a season. Do this by putting a soapy water solution at the joint between the tank and hose. If bubbles pop up, there’s a poor fit or other problem causing a propane leak, which can lead to a fire. If the stove fails to light after one or two attempts with its internal lighter, turn off the burners and close the propane valve. Wait one minute for any propane in the stove to dissipate and try again.
Making sure that the stove ignites properly and quickly is beneficial in it reaching the recommended temperatures. Ignition occurs when a switch is engaged and the friction from the switch meets the gas flow to establish a spark. The spark ignites the burner and the stove begins to heat up. For ignition problems, checking to see if a battery needs to be replaced is a safe troubleshooting method. It is not recommended to ignite a stove with a match or lighter if the igniter switch is broken. Doing so can cause a small fireball of gas to rise and possibly cause burns on the person igniting the stove.
Lighting Your Stove – Safety Warning
Lighting the stove should always be done using the stove’s igniter–a safe method because the spark is isolated inside of the stove. The metal stove resists fire and backlash from a small gas explosion, should one occur. Making sure that fingers, arms, face and other body parts are away from the stove during the ignition process will reduce the risks of burns and serious injury.
Summary: Twelve Portable Stove Safety Tips
- Before you even hook up your camp stove to a propane canister read the directions that came with the portable stove. Please also make sure you hang on to the directions for review and reference. You may not be the only person to end up using your stove!
- Inspect the stoves hose connections for any wear or tear from previous use. Especially the O-rings and jet nipples. Replace if worn.
- When it says outside use only that is where you need to use the camp stove. If you use in enclosed space, like a camper, tent or car, you are setting yourself up for carbon monoxide hazard.
- Do not leave propane cylinder attached to camp stove when not in use.
- Use only soapy water to check for leaks on joint areas. If the soap bubbles you have a leak and you need to make adjustments.
- Keep away from other burnable materials or combustibles.
- Do not leave stove unattended while in use.
- Always place stove on a level, flat, and sturdy surface, like a picnic table, when cooking.
- Before attaching the propane canister check to make sure all your valves are in the off position.
- Never modify the camp stove, which will render the appliance to become unsafe.
- Inspect the burner holes for obstructions prior to operation. Do not use until you have cleared the blockage.
- Cool your propane camp stove before removing the canister of fuel and to clean. Keep your stove in good working order by cleaning after every use. Always do periodic checks of your stove before you go camping to save you time.