Warning over microwavable wheat bags after West Sussex kitchen blaze

A microwaveable wheat bag sparked a blaze in an elderly woman’s kitchen in West Sussex.

And now, following the fire on Saturday, April 24, the fire service is urging people to take extra care when heating up the bags.

Wheat bags are commonly used to relieve pain but the there is a fire risk if people overheat them or don’t follow the instructions, a spokesman said.

He added: “Late on Saturday evening, firefighters from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service were mobilised to reports of a fire in a kitchen in Denman’s Lane, Lindfield.

The damaged wheat bag

“Upon arrival at the scene, the crew from Haywards Heath Fire Station found the fire-damaged wheat bag inside the resident’s microwave.

“The lady had tried to remove it from the property, after seeing it had caught fire, but the smoke generated by the burning wheat bag had almost overcome her. Firefighters moved the wheat bag outside and then ventilated the property.”

The kitchen sustained minimal damage and the woman was unhurt but she needed first aid after suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation, the fire service said.

Retained Watch Commander, Phil Pierpoint, said: “Fortunately this resident had spotted when the wheat bag had caught fire.

“But rather than dial 999 immediately she had tried to tackle the fire herself, as she said she did not wish to be a burden.

“If there is an emergency and we are needed, it is never a burden.

“When the smoke became too much, she did call for the fire and rescue service. In the event of a fire in the home, our advice is always to get out, stay out and 999 for the fire and rescue service.

“We know wheat bags can bring relief to those suffering from pain, and when used correctly they can be effective. But it is so important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when heating the bags to ensure they do not overheat and catch fire.”

The fire service said if people use a wheat bag they should always follow these guidelines:

Buy a wheat bag with clear heating instructions, and follow those instructions.

Keep an eye out for over-use, a smell of burning, smoking or charring.

Do not leave the microwave unattended when heating a bag.

Putting a glass or small container of water in the microwave as you are heating the bag can help keep the wheat moist, making the grains less likely to dry out and ignite

Never use the bag more than the manufacture advises.

Leave to cool in a safe area and on a non-combustible surface, like a kitchen sink.

Do not reheat the bag until it has completely cooled – which could be many hours after initial heating.

Use only as a heat pack for direct application to the body, do not use to warm beds, as this can lead to ignition.