To hear Blitz USA Inc. tell it, it is the victim — not the people, and children, who were seriously burned when the company’s gasoline cans exploded in flames.

After all, what’s the big deal when a 3-year-old boy is burned over 47 percent of his body, one of 75 cases of victims being killed or injured in fires and explosions caused by gasoline containers?

Blitz, a Miami, Okla.-based plastic fuel-can molder is closing down its operations after failing to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to Plastic News, a trade paper. Blitz ran into financial problems when it faced a flood of lawsuits from plaintiffs who alleged they were injured in fires triggered by the company’s plastic gas cans.

The manufacturer already has anted up $30 million to litigate product liability suits, and owes $3.5 million in legal fees, Plastic News reported. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which also sold Blitz’s gasoline containers, is also being sued.

Blitz has blamed consumers for misusing its cans, by doing things like using gasoline to start a fire. When the company doesn’t say is that if it had installed a relatively inexpensive part, called a flame arrester, on its cans, it probably wouldn’t be being sued.

According to the newsletter, flame arresters, which cost about $1 to put on a gasoline can, have been around for 200 years.  The device, often a spring-loaded cap, stops gas fumes from igniting and flashing back into the container, turning it into an exploding bomb.

Horrendous accidents have happened for want of these flame arresters, according to Landon Beadore, 3, accidentally knocked over a gas can in his garage. Gas fumes traveled on the floor and were ignited by a water heater’s pilot light. The fire “flashed  back” to the gas can, and it exploded. Landon suffered burns over 47 percent of his body.

In another case cited by Ron Jacoby was carrying a gas can when static electricity from his body ignited the container.

Companies such as Blitz should have been installing flame arresters on their gas cans voluntarily. But it is still a disgrace that federal regulators don’t require flame arresters on gas cans, or that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has not issued a warning to the public.

By the way, the Occupational Safety and Health Care Administration requires that flame arresters be installed on workplace gas cans.


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