A dangerous exploding stove – and how my warning about it got me my first ever online banSeptember 11, 2019
The weather was nice at the weekend, and I went to a beach barbecue at Loch Lomond. There were 11 of us in the group, and the plan was to take a boat over to Inchcailloch, an island in the loch.
Unfortunately, the ferry was not running as the level of the loch was too high.
Someone told us this was due to deliberate flood management, involving a barrage across the nearby River Leven.
Whatever the reason, we were not going to Inchcailloch. Instead, we took our food and barbecue items to a nearby beach instead.
As we were cooking our food, we were startled by an enormous explosion.
Most of us instinctively jumped up and started to run. I glanced round to see flames shooting out of a friend’s cooking stove, to a height of four or five feet. It was a fireball, and for a horrible moment I thought someone might be engulfed in it.
This photo of a bonfire is similar to the sight I saw when the cooking stove exploded. Source.
Thankfully – maybe miraculously – no one was injured. After a few minutes, the flames died down to a more manageable level, and we were able to douse them with water.
Some of us (including myself) were literally shaking after this terrifying incident. But the party went on, and there were several jokes about the “amazing bangers”.
There was a lot of talk about getting rid of our portable camping stoves. These are the type that come with a “suitcase” type carry case.
Later that evening, someone posted a link to a BBC documentary called Fake Britain, which ran an exposé on “fake” portable camping stoves just a couple of weeks ago. It reported on the experience of a man from Surrey, Marcus Oliver, who had suffered serious burns to his hands and face when his camping stove had exploded.
Mr Oliver’s experience was also covered in a report from Surrey News.
He had purchased the stove in question from Amazon, and it had been imported from China. It had a fake CE mark, falsely indicating compliance with European Economic Area Health and Safety standards.
Mr Oliver reported the incident to his local Trading Standards office, and the local court fined the importers a total of £45,000.
Three parties were fined: the retailer, Discount In Limited, the reseller, A2Z Discounts Limited, and an importer, Home Solutions Limited, which had imported 1,200 of the stoves from China.
The manufacturers of the stoves were not fined, presumably because they are based outside UK jurisdiction.
Therefore it seems likely that these dangerous stoves will continue to be in circulation.
And there will be people like my friend who may have bought one of these fake camping stoves a while ago, but may not realise how dangerous they are.
If you are an importer, you should be very careful about the quality of goods that you are importing, if they are potentially dangerous. And if you are a consumer, when it comes to products like these, I would advise you to buy them from a reputable shop, and to ensure that they are quality assured.
An attempt to warn people – with explosive results
The night after the incident, I could hardly sleep for thinking about what could have happened. The beach we were on is popular with families. What if a child had been running about near the stove when it exploded. What if someone had been leaning over the stove at the time?
The stove in question was being used incorrectly at the time. But humans are prone to making mistakes and carelessness. What if an elderly couple had been using it in their caravan, and hadn’t read or comprehended the instructions properly? Or a group of tipsy teenagers, too happy to care?
In an attempt to spread the word, I posted about the incident in a Facebook group that focuses on hillwalking and camping in Scotland. I was actually quite shocked at the reaction. That particular group has a reputation for aggressive comments – so much so, that some of the moderators broke away last year and formed a new group with a similar name.
So I expected to get a few jibes in response to my post, but I didn’t think that would matter, as I just wanted to get the warning out to as many people as possible – ideally to the kind of people who enjoy camping and the great outdoors.
However I wasn’t prepared for such an overwhelming onslaught of finger-wagging judgementalism, arrogance and even outright viciousness in reaction to the photos I’d posted.
This was because I included a photo of the stove before it exploded, and the photo showed that my friend had made several mistakes in its set-up.
• He had not removed the carry case from the stove before lighting it.
• He left his cigarette lighter lying on the carry case while the stove was on.
• He apparently had the gas hob plate upside-down.
The burnt-out gas stove.
This set-up is likely to have triggered the explosion (and it certainly triggered an explosion of self-righteousness!). But the fact that a few careless mistakes can cause the type of inferno that could cause devastating harm to any person or animal in the vicinity still indicates a highly dangerous product. There are many careless people out there, and I don’t want to see them – or people near them – seriously injured or worse.
An explosion of self-righteousness
Some people made constructive comments on my post, but there were so many judgemental comments, many of them assuming that I was the one who had set up the camping stove incorrectly.
Most people, it appeared, were immediately looking at the photos I’d posted, and then rushing to judgement without reading my words.
It was a bit like a mob attack which built on itself.
I intially edited my original post, in an attempt to explain that this was not my stove and that I was simply trying to warn about some dangerous fake imports. But the judgemental comments continued – it was clear that most commenters were just looking at the pictures and not reading the words.
I then deleted my original post and made a new post which did not include photos of the stove that had exploded. Instead, a photo of the partially burnt face of Marcus Oliver, the man from Surrey who suffered serious burns after his stove exploded, was shown.
Astonishingly, four out of the 10 reactions to this post were “laughter” emojis. Maybe the laughter was directed at me, but it seems incredibly callous to react with laughter to a photo of a man with serious burns.
I suppose if this had been a reaction to a post about myself, I would have felt very hurt. But I didn’t really take it personally, as my only connection to the incident was that I was part of a group, I’m friends with the person who set up the stove incorrectly, and I was sitting about 10 meters away at the time.
Though I did feel a bit upset that my sincere attempt to prevent someone getting hurt by one of these stoves in the future was met with such a viscious mass attack.
The most astonishing example was this:
“You’re a first class fud Natalie!
“You deleted your post because the narrative didn’t fit your agenda. The members of this group clearly understood the issues and repeatedly commented on why the accident happened. Yet you still cannot see that you and your friends were to blame for the incident.
“Your ego is such that you’re trying to fit the blame elsewhere via linking in a story of another stove even though you have zero evidence it was a manufacturer fault or even the same stove. YET all the evidence points towards multiple errors by the users.
“Confirmation bias, i suggest you google it.”
“I’m astonished at your comment! You don’t even know me. I deleted my original post because the point I was trying to make was being obscured in an onslaught of judgmentalism from people who hadn’t even read my words.
“‘Trying to fit blame’ – how bizarre. I wouldn’t have even posted it if I’d had any thoughts along those lines. My sole intention in posting was to try and warn people who might have one of these stoves to check that they are not dangerous imports bearing fake CE marks. But if you want to think such weird things about me, instead of heeding my warning, that’s up to you I suppose.”
I then received a slightly less aggressive response from this man, where he simply accused me of trying to spread “terror and misinformation” and told me that in future when I cook sausages I should remember to take the stove out of the carry case first.
I reminded him (for the umpteenth time) that it wasn’t me, but my friend who had been cooking sausages.
Another attacker weighed in with
“You said earlier that you were at a sausage sizzle!”
“This is like a blooming inquisition! Yes M’lud, I was at a sausage sizzle yesterday. There were 11 of us present at the time. Three of our group were using portable camping stoves, and the rest of us were sharing disposable barbecues. I had left my camping stove at home, but when I do use it, I always remove it from the carry case first.”
Deleted, and banned
The following morning, I received a positive comment from someone, and then I noticed that my post had been removed by one of the admin team. To be honest, I felt slightly relieved, though saddened that my attempted warning had fallen so flat.
The incident reminded me of a Medium post that I read last year, from a writer who blogs frequently about snow on the hills. He had posted on a forum (which I suspect could be the same one that I posted on yesterday) some unpopular opinions about not always needing to carry a map and compass and not always needing to take waterproofs.
He described the level of vitriol in the comments on his post as “breathtaking.”
I was classified as reckless, having a death wish, a fanny, arrogant, akin to a camper who leaves his rubbish after breaking camp(!), and various other forms of nasty personal abuse. No matter how much I was reasonable or considered with my responses, the bile continued unabated, to the point that it was impossible to reply to everyone. (At all times I kept in mind Lao Tzu’s adage of responding intelligently to unintelligent treatment.)
So similar to my own experience!
The moderators, not content that I was getting a proper shoeing, for good measure weighed in and deleted the post, handing me a 24 hour ban into the bargain.
Hmm. My post was also deleted by the moderators. Had I also been given a ban? I checked the page, and – yes, it seems I have been banned from posting or commenting in this group for the next week!
I can’t say I’m terribly upset about this – just surprised.
It seems odd to have experienced an online mob attack followed by my first ever online ban – for the huge crime of trying to prevent people suffering a horrific accident or death!