WASHINGTON - Consumers will soon see gas water heaters that are not susceptible to flashback fires, federal safety officials said.
A voluntary standard in place since July 1 equips new tank-type water heaters with new "flame arrestor" safety technology, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.
The technology prevents the dangerous flashback fires that can result from spilled paint thinner, gasoline or other flammable liquids left near a gas water heater.
The arrestor's one-way venting system traps and burns gas vapors inside the water heater and extinguishes the pilot light.
"The new water heaters will save lives and property and reduce the number of terrible burn injuries that are caused by these fires," said Hal Stratton, the commission's chairman.
Nearly 800 residential fires a year are caused by gas water heater ignition of flammable vapors - resulting in about five deaths and 130 injuries, according to the commission.
The agency said the new safety design applies to 30, 40 and 50 gallon heaters.
The standard was developed by industry officials in conjunction with the safety commission and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association. Most manufacturers are expected to adopt the new technology.
For the millions of people who have gas water heaters manufactured before the standard took effect, Stratton warned that flammable liquids should never be used or stored anywhere near gas water heaters.