FULTON – Creators of a popular YouTube variety show that tests everyday items in microwave ovens said they were “very sad” for the family of 12-year-old Logan Sipe, who recorded and published his own microwave abuse and whose mother died last week in an apartment fire that, authorities say, he set.
Among the shows on ideo Productions’ YouTube channel is the twice-weekly “Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This?” The program has a format strikingly similar to the YouTube series Logan dubbed “Microwave this.”
Logan’s mother, Charlene Sipe, 41, died Nov. 23 in a fire that ravaged a historic downtown building. Only 8 days earlier, Sipe had used the social networking site Facebook to promote as “completely safe” the boy’s habit of nuking – to the point of fire and explosion – a variety of household items.
Logan is charged with juvenile delinquency, including disorderly conduct, in connection with last week’s fire.
Authorities in the Fulton Fire Department and the Whiteside State’s Attorney’s Office continue to avoid answering the question of exactly how the fire started.
His YouTube channel, called “Microwaverz,” featured 18 videos of things such as tin foil, light bulbs, and steel wool as they flared and sparked inside the appliance before YouTube removed it on Tuesday, citing “multiple or severe violations of our Community Guidelines.”
Jonathan Paula, who records and produces ideo’s content in Boston, offered condolences to the Sipe family. Paula said he had been aware of the Fulton story since it broke in the local news more than a week ago.
“We are very sad to hear this news,” Paula wrote in an e-mail response to questions. “We’re professionals, who repeatedly advise our audience in every single episode against repeating any of the acts seen on ‘Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This?’”
Paula, in a 5-minute video blog posted Thursday, said, “When I said don’t try this at home, I meant it.”
He said his heart “immediately sank” when heard about the fire, and that the story “does nothing but further echo my point” that people shouldn’t try to emulate at home what they see on his show.
Despite the similarities, Paula said he didn’t think Logan ever watched his show.
“Is It a Good Idea?” has more than 6.4 million views and has microwaved 254 different items, ranging from liquid soap and marshmallow Peeps to airbag canisters and pressurized spray paint.
Before YouTube removed “Microwaverz,” Logan had featured several of the same items that Paula and his crew had zapped early in their career.
A light bulb, tin foil and a bar of soap all appear on both series, as does a tube of toothpaste, the last item Logan featured on Nov. 15.
After trolling through Logan’s postings and comments on YouTube and Facebook, Paula said, “I could not find a single mention, reference or hint that Logan, or his viewers, had ever seen our program.”
As Paula attempted to distance ideo from Logan and “Microwaverz,” he expressed hope that widespread coverage of the tragedy would prevent more attempts to mimic the stunts.
“Although we don’t believe Logan had ever seen our program, it doesn’t make this story any less difficult to hear,” Paula wrote. “If anything, we hope this incident discourages any similar acts in the future. We send our deepest condolences to the Sipe family, and everyone in Fulton affected by this tragedy.”
While YouTube has removed Logan’s main “Microwaverz” page, a second channel called “Microwaverz2” remained online Friday.
That channel features three crude videos, one of which shows Logan bashing a microwave oven with a sledgehammer, then dismantling its innards with the claw of a framing hammer.
YouTube spokeswoman Victoria Grand said the immense volume of content posted to the user-content website made it impossible to review every video.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, gets 35 hours of video uploaded every minute, Grand said.
Users have the option to flag content by clicking a link that appears on every video, at which point a YouTube staffer will review it to see whether it meets corporate standards for decency.
Potentially dangerous material that children might try to imitate, for instance, could be set into an age-restricted domain on YouTube that requires viewers to be at least 18 years old, Grand said.
She declined to discuss “Microwaverz” or ideo Productions, citing a YouTube policy of not talking about specific videos.
Asked about Charlene Sipe’s promotion of a 12-year-old’s videos for advertising revenue, Grand said, “In general, this is why we have the guidelines in place.”
Google considers the number of videos removed on a daily basis to be proprietary information and wouldn’t provide specific numbers. But, Grand said, “It’s fair to say it’s several thousand.”