Safety reminder after microwave wheat bag fire

Fri 24 Aug, 2018

Remains of wheat bag overheated in microwave oven

Firefighters are urging people to take care with microwave wheat bag or cherry stone heat packs after a fire in Marlow Bottom early this morning.

Two crews from High Wycombe Fire Station were called to sheltered housing in Patches Field shortly after midnight.

Watch Commander Darren Knowles said: “A man had placed a microwave heat pad in his microwave oven and then gone to bed. The heat pad subsequently burst into flames and produced a large amount of thick, acrid smoke, which filled his flat.

“He did the right thing on hearing his smoke alarm activate, by getting himself out, but he breathed in an unknown amount of this smoke, so South Central Amblance Service were mobilised to attend. A neighbour who dialled 999 was also affected by the smoke.

“The man couldn’t remember how long he put it in the microwave for, but as they usually only require less than a minute, any length of time over this could cause this to happen.

“This incident illustrated not only how dangerous wheat bags can be if they are not used properly, but also how important it is to have working smoke alarms.”

Firefighters cleared the smoke with a fan and are arranging for the man to be provided with an electric blanket.

Darren offered the following safety advice:

  • Follow the heating instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully.
  • Pay particular attention to the wattage of the microwave, as the higher the wattage, the quicker the wheat bag will heat up. This may vary the length of time it needs to be in the microwave for.
  • Never leave the bag in unattended when heating.
  • Ensure the microwave turntable turns freely with the bag on it and is not obstructed.
  • Do not use the bag if there are any signs of over-use, such as discolouration or a smell of burning.
  • Do not keep the bag insulated after initial heating (for example, by placing it in a bed).
  • Never reheat the bag until it has completely cooled, which could be up to two hours.
  • Before putting it away, leave the bag to cool on a non-combustible surface such as a kitchen sink.
Note: The picture above was taken at a previous incident involving an overheated wheat bag.