Karla Hoyt and her family woke up to a fire in their Youngstown, Ohio home last summer and barely escaped. Now, they are blaming a popular toy for the terrifying blaze.
"The street was quiet. No one was up. No one could hear me screaming for help," Hoyt told Good Morning America.
In the ashes, family members found what they think caused the fire: a battery-powered Power Wheels Jeep, made by Fisher-Price. It had been plugged in and was re-charging overnight on their front porch.
Three years ago, the government announced a recall of 10 million Power Wheels, the popular children's ride-on toys. It was one of the largest recalls ever. But Good Morning America consumer correspondent Greg Hunter found out from Fisher-Price that therecall has failed to reach 80 percent of the potentially dangerous toys, and there are allegations that the fix itself may be flawed.
"I had just been asleep in that house! My children had just been asleep in that house! And if we hadn't of woken up we would have died in that house," Hoyt said.
Implicated in Series of Fires
That a child's toy could cause a devastating fire may be surprising, but regulators in Washington, D.C. are aware of the problem. The toy has been implicated in a series of fires.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the 1998 recall, saying the electrical systems in the toys could overheat.
"This is a potential fire hazard waiting to happen in your home or garage," CPSC Chairwoman Ann Brown said back in 1998. The government agency said some of the Power Wheels' electrical components weren't strong enough, and could overheat and cause the vehicles to burst into flames while being re-charged, or even as children were riding them.
Fisher-Price, on the other hand, says it has found no evidence that the toy caused any fire it has investigated, before or after the recall, including the Youngstown fire.
The company says it has spent $58 million on the recall, and alerted as many as 60 million people. Fisher-Price is calling the recall a success, but not everyone agrees.
The Hoyt family says they never heard about the Power Wheels recall until a firefighter told them, the day their house burned. And there are millions of other people across America who have still never had their Power Wheels repaired.
A Thousand More Reports
The consequences have been predictable: Before the recall, there were 850 reports of Power Wheels overheating or catching fire. Since the recall, Fisher-Price has received up to 1,000 additional reports of the unrepaired electric toys overheating or starting fires.
And now, the danger may include vehicles that have been repaired.
Aaron Banerjee, a former CPSC engineer who worked on the recall, says the recall does not fix all of Power Wheels' problems.
"I would call it a halfway job because it … addresses some of the issues but not all," Banerjee said. Asked if there is going to be more fires connected to the toy in the future, he said, "yes, there are."
Under Fisher-Price's government-approved recall, the company has to replace a fuse and the battery connection with redesigned, beefed-up components. But Banerjee says this replacement is a "compromise."
And there are things that didn't get repaired in the recall, and could cause fires, too, including switches and connections, he says.
A Family Sues Fisher-Price